Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 629

Issue # 629                                                  Week ending Saturday 20th November 2021
Public Servants Need to Get on with the Job Or They Should Be Replaced by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

When the daughter engages, she is profound. She laughs at something you’ve said and sighs: “Oh, you Boomers. What are you like?” When men came home from the hardships of World War II, there was a boom in babies and it lasted quite a while. So yon Boomers term is for babies born from 1946 until 1964, when men must have got tired of, er, booming.

Nowadays, it’s not just about the dates. Baby Boomers are the demographic cohort - that just means a bunch of people - representing those born between those years. They are supposed to have rejected and redefined traditional values. Yes, we did. We had long hair, flared jeans and platform heels. We didn’t get up to as much hanky-panky as the history books claim. We are now, apparently, the wealthiest, most active and have the most disposable income for food, clothing and retirement programmes.

The most active? The wealthiest? Retirement programmes? I hope the Editor of the Press and Journal is reading this. Please sir, may I have a big pay rise so I can become a stereotypical Boomer?

Millennials, also known as Generation Y or the Net Generation, is the bunch consisting of poor wee mites born between 1982 and 2004. They are the first generation to have grown up in a world of digital technology, which has shaped their identities and created lasting cultural and social attitudes. They are geeks. Don’t I know it?

Our millennial daughter is a digital worker but she’s very focused on healthy eating and fitness. She exercises every single day. Meanwhile, I’m watching a TV show I don't even like because the remote fell on the floor.

Some readers said they nearly fell on the floor last week when I dared ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne to serve the outer isles by putting one of us heathery-eared natives onto their board of directors. How ridiculous that there’s no one to give feedback from the main area they serve. Sadly, no feedback yet from chief executive Duncan Mackison who still hasn’t found time to put pen to paper after I sent him last Wednesday’s P&J.

Transport minister Graeme Dey answered my call for action over the closure of the MV Hebrides’s second deck. But the mealy-mouthed minister only said he could “allow the mezzanine deck to be fully-deployed with some amendments to timetables.” That is Holyrood-speak for: “If you want the upper deck you can have it, but we will cut the number of sailings.” No vital jobs to be created. Do the decent thing or we soon won’t see the light of Dey.

Like some allegedly-esteemed island councillors also need to do. There’s a stooshie going on over a probe into groups of our elected reps on our islands’ council. First, there was to be an investigation into conduct, then there was no investigation. Then no one was to be named and now details of a gang of alleged malcontents have been leaked.

If the writings of other elected members are true, there seem to be some councillors who drag themselves into the chamber to do nothing other than vote against everything. What about considering each issue on its merits? What about finding consensus for the interests of islanders? What about resigning if any of these shameful allegations are true?

We have allegedly-disrespectful elected members who are happy to pick up their generous allowances - you see, that is the crucial bit that the sensible councillors didn’t have the courage to say - but who seem to have forgotten how to serve their public. CalMac syndrome, I call it.

When you’re elected to serve the people, it’s different. You engage and serve the people. That comes first. If there is any time left, you can indulge in your childish political posturing.

Lack of engagement, even for supposed political reasons, is just a symptom of incompetence. It’s the same everywhere. Show us what you can do or we show you the door. Now listen to me, Boomer councillors. We're watching you. Roll up your sleeves and go to it, or go home.

Advice dispensed, when is lunch in this home? Sometimes Mrs X doesn’t engage with me. She swapped the label of my favourite wine the other day with a cheap supermarket plonk. Yuck. Revenge is a dish best served hot. I have now swapped round the labels on her wee jars of spices. Mrs X does not know it yet but her thyme is cumin.

Nicola Sturgeon: Cambo Oil Field Should Not Get Green Light
The proposed Cambo oil field off Shetland "should not get the green light", Nicola Sturgeon has said.   The first minister had previously called for the controversial new development to be reassessed, but had stopped short of opposing it outright.  However she has now told MSPs that "the presumption would be that Cambo could not and should not pass any rigorous climate assessment".   The decision on whether drilling should be allowed sits with UK authorities.   The UK Westminster government has said an environmental impact assessment will be carried out first, although Scottish Secretary Alister Jack recently said the new field should "100%" get the go-ahead.  The Cambo oil field is situated approximately 125km (75 miles) to the west of Shetland in water depths of between 1,050m (3,445ft) and 1,100m (3,609ft).   The project, led by Siccar Point Energy, could yield hundreds of millions of barrels of oil and was originally licensed for exploration in 2001.   If approved by the Oil and Gas Authority, drilling could start as early as 2022 - and continue for 25 years.  There has been controversy over the proposal being considered at the same time as Scotland hosted the COP26 climate conference.   But the UK Westminster government has argued that despite moves to renewable energy sources, "there will continue to be ongoing demand for oil and gas over the coming years".  Ms Sturgeon had repeatedly refused to openly come out against the scheme, instead calling for it to be reassessed against a climate compatibility checklist despite pressure from the Scottish Greens, who have a partnership agreement with the SNP at Holyrood.   But when questioned by MSPs on Tuesday, she said that "I don't think Cambo should get the green light".  She added: "I don't think we can go on extracting oil and gas forever, and I don't think we can continue to give the go ahead to new oil fields.   I have set out a proposal for a climate assessment and I think the presumption would be that Cambo could not and should not pass any rigorous climate assessment."   Friends of the Earth Scotland said Ms Sturgeon's statement was "very welcome", adding: "This is an important progression of the Scottish government's position, which must now translate into clear opposition to all new fossil fuel projects."   The first minister was responding to a question from Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who had argued that "if we are serious about averting climate catastrophe, Cambo cannot go ahead".   But the Scottish Conservatives said the first minister had "come off the fence and fully abandoned Scotland's oil and gas industry".   MSP Liam Kerr said: "By refusing to back the Cambo development, the SNP have deserted the industry they once cited as the cornerstone of their economic case for independence."   Siccar Point Energy has said the new field could create more than 1,000 jobs, and would help secure the UK's energy supply during the transition to more renewable sources.
Analysis by Glenn Campbell, BBC Scotland political editor
Nicola Sturgeon is on quite a journey when it comes to oil and gas. She leads a party that has championed North Sea exploration for decades and once used the slogan "it's Scotland's oil" to campaign for independence.   Until a few weeks ago, the Scottish government supported a policy to extract maximum economic value from the remaining reserves. That was dropped in the build up to the COP26 climate summit.   She also called on the UK Westminster government to reassess Cambo, but was criticised by environmentalists for not explicitly opposing the field. Now she's come pretty close to doing just that.   While that's been welcomed by climate activists, it has drawn criticism from Conservatives who accuse her of abandoning an industry that supports tens of thousands of jobs.   The Tories and SNP are in close competition for votes in the oil-producing north east of Scotland.

Five Glasgow Libraries to Reopen After Funding Lifeline
Five libraries in Glasgow that closed during the Covid pandemic are set to reopen after securing £450,000 in Scottish government funding.  The money will help reopen libraries in Maryhill, Whiteinch, Barmulloch, the Gallery of Modern Art and the Couper Institute.  It is part of a Scotland-wide £1.25m public library Covid relief fund.   However, Glasgow Labour councillor Malcolm Cunning said it "falls well short" of what is needed.   Many public libraries are operating with reduced hours or remain closed months after lockdown restrictions were lifted.  Some providers told BBC Scotland News they simply did not have the money to return to a full service this year.  Campaigners previously expressed concern that some local libraries would never reopen.   The Scottish government's Covid relief fund took applications from around the country, with 23 projects eventually chosen.   The biggest sum, £448,068, was given to Glasgow, where a wrangle has been ongoing about the closure of some libraries.   Other areas have been given funding for work in the most deprived areas, with Fife receiving £60,000, West Lothian more than £46,000 and Edinburgh £33,000.   Libraries that are already open will be able to "widen" the services they offer, according to culture minister Jenny Gilruth.   She said: "Libraries are so much more than a place to borrow books. This fund will see the provision of community-centred projects aimed at, among other things, reducing social isolation, promoting mental wellbeing and reducing the poverty-related attainment gap.   This funding is part of the government's wider aspiration to drive a cultural recovery for our communities."   Because of significant upgrades being required for the buildings which house Maryhill and Whiteinch libraries, Glasgow Life said it was exploring the feasibility of moving library services to other venues earlier this year.   The campaign group Save Glasgow Libraries railed against the move and urged the public to take part in outdoor "read-ins".   Mr Cunning, who heads the Labour group on Glasgow City Council, accused the SNP of "taking away vital public services" with cutbacks.   He said: "This one-year funding is an admission of the mistakes made, but sadly it falls far short of the £1.25m-a-year required to fully reopen all five libraries.   We need a full funding package that secures the future of these libraries for years to come, not a sticking plaster solution."

Scotland Shaken by Early-hours Earthquake
People in the west of Scotland have been shaken by an earthquake in the early hours of the morning.   The earthquake, with a magnitude of 3.3 according to British Geological Survey (BGS), happened just before 02:00.   BGS said its epicentre was at Achnamara west of Lochgilphead in Argyll and Bute.   More than 30 people have reported feeling the tremor, from as far away as Edinburgh and Ballycastle in Northern Ireland.   The survey recorded the quake at a depth of 12km below the Earth's surface.   Rosemary Neagle, who lives on a farm in Kilmartin Glen near Lochgilphead, said the noise of the tremor was so loud that she initially thought something had exploded in one of her sheds.  She told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "It kept on intensifying and the house vibrated. It rumbled on for about 10 seconds afterwards, so it was quite frightening.   "I have experienced them before here but never to that extent. The house has never shook like that in the past."   Some Scotland football fans have cheekily claimed the quake may have been caused by events at Hampden Park, where the men's national football team beat Denmark 2-0.   Stephen Fenwick tweeted: "Earthquake in western Scotland? Probably earth tremor caused by several hundred thousand Glaswegians celebrating Scotland's historic 2-0 win over Denmark last night."   Data from BGS shows that between 200 and 300 earthquakes are detected in the UK every year, with tremors of between 3.0 and 3.9 magnitude happening on the mainland once every three years on average.   The overnight earthquake registered on all the seismographs across Ireland.   Dr Martin Möllhoff, director of Seismic Networks in Dublin at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, said it was the first felt earthquake that had been anywhere in Ireland since one was recorded close to the Irish border in County Donegal in 2019.  "It is a little bit exciting because this does not happen so often and most people think there are no earthquakes in Ireland," he said.

Dry Dock Brought Back to Use After Two Decades
A huge dry dock that has been largely unused for almost 20 years is to become a hub for breaking up marine vessels.  The Inchgreen dock in Greenock, one of the largest in the UK, has been the subject of calls by campaigners to bring it back into use.   A long-term deal has been signed with Atlas Decommissioning, which specialises in the end-of-life disposal of marine infrastructure.   The company said it would create about 100 jobs.   Mike Wood, from Atlas Decommissioning, said: "What we are doing here is essentially shipbuilding in reverse and requires much of the same engineering excellence and expertise."  Atlas, which is based in north-east England, said it had contracts in place with "blue chip" container lines for multiple vessels that they are removing from their current trading fleet.   Mr Wood added: "Inchgreen Dry Dock, as well as its size, also has direct access to very deep water. As a facility for the contracts we have in place I'd go as far as to say it is unique in the UK."   The contract is for the lease of the Inchgreen Dry Dock facility and adjacent land, which will become an export hub for recyclable metals.   The Inchgreen dock was where the QE2 was fitted out in the 1960s after its launch from the John Brown shipyard in Clydebank.   But it has been largely unused for decades and its cranes were demolished four years ago.  Campaigners called for a Scottish government strategy to promote and co-ordinate investment in marine industry on the Clyde.   Jim McSporran, from site owners Peel Ports, said Inchgreen Dry Dock was "a jewel in the crown of Scotland" and they were fully committed to bringing it back in full industrial use.  He said: "We have been engaging closely with Inverclyde Council as we worked to secure this contract, which we believe will be a game changer for the area and a sign of more economic benefit to come."   Labour councillor Stephen McCabe, the leader of Inverclyde Council, said it was "a terrific shot in the arm for the Inverclyde economy" and it would breathe new life into a key asset which is of local and national significance.   However, Alba group leader on the council, Jim McEleny, said the dry dock would become the country's "largest scrap yard".   He said the decision could block futures plans to expand operations at neighbouring Ferguson's shipyard in Port Glasgow.

Renewable Energy: How Scottish Isle of Eigg Relies on Wind, Water, Solar
As the world slowly moves away from using fossil fuels for electricity, a tiny Scottish island has shown it’s possible to rely almost entirely on renewables.   The community living on the Isle of Eigg were the first in the world to set up their own off-grid energy system powered by wind, water and the Sun.   Since it was launched in 2008, they have received visitors from several other countries wanting to learn more about the project.   Community Energy Malawi used their experience to set up a solar minigrid in Sitolo village, a community that previously relied on fossil fuels and firewood.

Powerful Picts Recalled in New Role-playing Game
A time when the Picts were a powerful political force in what is now Scotland has been recreated in a new table-top role-playing game.  Carved in Stone draws on the latest archaeological research and excavations of Pictish sites that go back 1,300 years.  They include this year's dig of Burghead Fort in Moray.   Edinburgh-based game design company Dungeons on a Dime and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’s Dig It! project are developing Carved in Stone.  Table-top role-playing games see players take on the role of characters in a story. Dungeons and Dragons is among the best-known of these types of games.  Carved in Stone covers the period just after the Battle of Dun Nechtain, also known as the Battle of Nechtansmere, in 685 AD when the Picts, led by King Bridei, defeated an army of Northumbrian Angles.  The battle is believed to have been fought at Dunnichen near Forfar in Angus.   The Picts created intricately-decorated standing stones and also constructed impressive hill forts to defend themselves against rival tribes and invaders. Their stones and the remains of their hillforts have been found across Scotland, including the Highlands, Perthshire and Aberdeenshire.   The Picts battled against the Romans, Angles and the Vikings.  Dan MacLean, of Aberdeen University's Northern Picts Project, said Scotland was experiencing an "archaeological revolution" in terms of understanding Pictish kingdoms.  He said: "Excavations and project work by universities, commercial companies and community groups and museums are writing a new and exciting chapter in Scottish history.  Carved in Stone lets you get in on the action - just in time for Scotland's Year of Stories 2022."  A crowd funding campaign has been launched to help pay for the publication of the game, and copies are to be made available as an educational resource.

Widow Demands Answers Over Covid Official Andrew Slorance's Death
The widow of a top Scottish government official, who died after contracting Covid, believes the full details of his illness were concealed to protect the reputation of a troubled hospital. Andrew Slorance went into Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital for cancer treatment a year ago.   His wife Louise believes he caught Covid there as well as another life-threatening infection.   The health board said it had been "open and honest".  It said there had been no attempt to conceal any information from the family.   Mr Slorance was the Scottish government's head of response and communication unit, in charge of its handling of the Covid pandemic.  The 49-year-old official went in to the £850m flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) at the end of October 2020 for a stem cell transplant and chemotherapy as part of treatment for Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL).   He died nearly six weeks into his stay, with the cause of his death listed as Covid pneumonia.   But after requesting a copy of his medical notes, Mrs Slorance discovered her husband had also been treated for an infection caused by a fungus called aspergillus, which had not been discussed with either of them during his hospital stay.   The infection is common in the environment but can be extremely dangerous for people with weak immune systems.  Mrs Slorance questions whether it may have played a part in her husband's death, and if so, why she was not told?   She told the BBC: "I think somebody and probably a number of people have made an active decision not to inform his family of that infection, either during his admission or post-death."   Mrs Slorance believes that officials wanted to protect the hospital, which is already the subject of a public inquiry, and its reputation, "no matter what the cost".  She said: "The impact of the health board hiding the fungal infection will have lifelong impacts on all members of our family, including five children.   The reason? To protect a building, a health board and political decision-making."  Mrs Slorance says a full investigation should take place into incidences of aspergillus at the hospital campus.   In response, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: "We are sorry that the family are unhappy with aspects of Mr Slorance's treatment, details of which were discussed with the family at the time.   While we cannot comment on individual patients, we do not recognise the claims being made.  We are confident that the appropriate care was provided. There has been a clinical review of this case and we would like to reassure the family that we have been open and honest and there has been no attempt to conceal any information from them."    Mr Slorance was first treated for Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) in 2015, but suffered a relapse in 2019.  A second stem cell transplant was delayed when the pandemic hit in March last year but he was finally admitted to the haematology ward at the QEUH on the 26 October 2020, after a negative Covid test.   Despite being treated in an isolation room during this time, he tested positive eight days later on 3 November, and he was moved for his Covid treatment - eventually to intensive care.  His wife, who was at home with his three younger children, said that as Mr Slorance's condition deteriorated, she struggled to get information about what was happening.  Mrs Slorance said: "On the phone I thought he sounded alright even as treatment was escalating. Then he went silent and wasn't speaking to any of us on the phone. I think I felt deep down that he was pushing us away to prepare us for the worst.   But he came back to me eventually and said it was too hard to speak with the masks and everything else.   But he actually spoke, and that was the last five-minute call with the kids before ventilation."  Mr Slorance was moved to ICU on 20 November of last year and died at 11:36 on 5 December.  His wife believes that he contracted Covid in the hospital when he should have been protected by strict infection control measures as his immune system was weakened by chemotherapy.  Mrs Slorance tried to piece together how he could have contracted the virus.  She spoke on the phone to her husband's former colleague, the Scottish government's National Clinical Director Jason Leitch, and said the exchange left her "explosively angry".  "I had a conversation with Jason Leitch where he suggested that Andrew could be in a different situation and therefore could have been incubating the Covid longer, and that the family could have been the source," she said.   Mrs Slorance said it felt like the blame was being put on the family.    "And yet everybody had spent seven months doing everything they possibly could to protect Andrew and keep him safe, and that impacted every aspect of our lives," she said.   In response, Prof Leitch issued a statement saying he was trying to provide support to a long-standing colleague and was in no way seeking to apportion responsibility for Mr Slorance's Covid infection to any particular person or group.   He apologised sincerely for any distress that had been caused.   Prof Leitch said: "Andrew Slorance was an outstanding public servant and he was pivotal in much of the work the Scottish government undertook in the early response to the pandemic.   His loss is felt profoundly in the Scottish government, but this will only be a fraction of the loss that is being experienced by his family."  Mrs Slorance said the discovery that she had not been told the full details had "put her grief in suspension".    "I don't know what death I'm grieving," she said.  "It's not the one that you partially prepare for at the beginning of a treatment like this; it's not the one I was told about, the Covid.   "I'll never know if it was the aspergillus or the Covid, so I can't grieve a death I don't understand fully."

Overdue Book Returned 73 Years Late to Fife Library
A book has been returned more than 73 years late to a library in Fife.  Stately Timber by Rupert Hughes, an adventure story set in Boston, should have been returned to Dunfermline's Central Library in Abbot Street on 6 November 1948.   However, staff at what is now Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries were stunned to receive a parcel containing the book last week.    It had been found by the borrower's daughter and posted back.   The book was discovered on the Black Isle more than seven decades late.  Donna Dewar, of Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries, said: "I burst out laughing when I opened the parcel, I couldn't believe it.   "We had a book returned to our Rosyth branch after 14 years recently, which we thought was amazing enough, but this was way beyond anything we've heard of."  She added: "For a bit of fun we worked out how much could have been due in fees and it comes to £2,847.   It arrived with a lovely letter from the borrower's daughter who was able to give us a bit of detail."   Fife libraries have had an amnesty on late fees throughout the pandemic to encourage members to return books.   In the letter, the borrower's daughter explained her late father had lived in Thornton in Fife in 1948.   She said she would never know whether he simply forgot to return the book or had chosen to keep it.   She also wrote: "I find it fascinating to see the dates of when this book was taken out, during the latter years of WW2, and that the war ended between stamps marked by librarians.  Life goes on around momentous historical events."   The inside pages of the book show the date stamps - and advice that the book "may only be retained for 14 days".   Christine McLean, OnFife's head of cultural heritage and wellbeing, said: "We're thrilled to have received it... and we look forward to finding a special place to display the book, and the story of its journey, in our local studies section."  The Guinness world record for the most overdue library book is held by one returned to Sidney Sussex College at Cambridge University. It was borrowed in 1668 and returned 288 years later.

DWP Official to Become Top Civil Servant in Scotland in Wake of Alex Salmond Row
Scotland’s top civil servant will step down in January after a prolonged period in the spotlight over the Alex Salmond scandal.   Leslie Evans will leave her post as permanent secretary on January 5, to be replaced by John Paul Marks, a senior official in the Department of Work and Pensions.   Evans was criticised by a Holyrood inquiry this year over the Government's botched investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Salmond, Scotland's former First Minister.   Salmond was awarded more than £500,000 as a result of the case after the investigation was deemed to be “unlawful” and “tainted by apparent bias”.   First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “grateful” to Evans for her service.  “The expertise and insight that Leslie has applied in leading the organisation through the notable and significant challenges of our day – such as EU exit and the Covid-19 pandemic – has been admirable.   I join with so many across the Scottish public sector and beyond in wishing Leslie every success for the chapter ahead.”  Marks said he was “delighted” to take the role, adding: “I would like to thank all the teams at the Department for Work & Pensions for their support and public service over the years.   I look forward to joining the team in Scotland in the new year as we do our very best for Scotland in these important years ahead.”  The First Minister said of Marks: “I am delighted to agree the appointment of John Paul Marks as permanent secretary to the Scottish Government.  John Paul brings a wealth of experience to this senior leadership role from his career in the civil service working across a range of policy and delivery priorities.  I look forward to working with him over the years ahead as we recover from Covid-19 and deliver on the Government’s ambition to build a fairer, greener Scotland.”  The appointment of a permanent secretary is made by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case – the head of the UK civil service – with the agreement of the First Minister.

Engineering Services Group Edwin James Plans 100 New Jobs
A Glasgow-based engineering services firm has revealed plans to create more than 100 jobs over the next two years.  Edwin James Group said a series of contract wins had led to a "record" order book in excess of £500m.   The group, which has bases in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and other parts of the UK, expects about 40 of the new posts to be based north of the border.   The roles will include mechanical and electrical engineers, project engineers and apprentices.   The jobs announcement came as the company, which employs nearly 1,000 staff, reported that turnover dropped by 11%, to £136m, in the year to February 2021, although profits "held up well".  Edwin James attributed the fall to "operational challenges" as a result of pandemic lockdowns but added that it remained resilient and had become "a diverse business that is well-placed to navigate shocks to the economy".

Shock Bills for EV Drivers After Charging Glitch
Hundreds of electric vehicles drivers across Scotland have been presented with huge bills for charging after a glitch developed.   One driver in Aberdeenshire found a £3,016.22 charge on his account after a 16-minute charge.  ChargePlace Scotland, which runs the network, said it was aware of the issue and that no money had been taken from customers.  Teams are going through the data to remove erroneous charges.  Stephen Trayner, from ChargePlace Scotland, said the figures that were appearing in customers' accounts were the result of a "pre-invoicing exercise" - but he stressed that they were not actual invoices and should be ignored.   He said: "We apologise for any inconvenience and upset this internal exercise may have caused but would like to assure customers that any ongoing invoicing issues will be swiftly dealt with by our service centre team."  Invoices for the correct amounts should be issued from Monday, he added.

'Significant Progress' on Flow Country Unesco Bid
Significant progress has been made on a draft boundary for a proposed Flow Country Unesco World Heritage site, according to Highland Council officials.  The local authority is involved in making a bid for the status for the vast area of peatbog, lochs and bog pools in the north Highlands.  Covering large parts of Caithness and Sutherland, the Flow Country is estimated to extend to 494,210 acres (200,000ha) and is more than twice the size of Orkney.  A detailed bid must be submitted to Unesco by late next year, with a final decision expected in 2024.   In a report to Monday's Sutherland county committee, council officers said the draft boundary was now undergoing a peer review.   They also said the next step in the process was further public consultation with communities in and around the site. The UK Westminster government approved plans for a bid for World Heritage status for the Flow Country last year.  Scotland currently has six World Heritage sites.  They are the Antonine Wall, Heart of Neolithic Orkney, New Lanark, the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, St Kilda and the Forth Bridge.

Dutch-inspired 'Care Village' Plans Take Shape in the Borders
Plans for a "care village" in the Borders, partly inspired by a visit to a facility in the Netherlands, look set to progress.  Scottish Borders Council is being recommended to agree to take forward proposals for the development for 60 residents in Tweedbank.  The plans first surfaced after a visit to the Hogeweyk dementia village in 2020 to look at new ways of providing services.   If agreed, the project would see two current care homes closed to free up revenue funding for the care village.   A report to councillors, external described the move as a "significant departure" from existing models of care.   Both the Waverley Care Home and Garden View Intermediate Care Home would be shut in order to allow the plans to progress.  The authority has already earmarked a budget of more than £22m for new provision in Tweedbank and Hawick. The care village concept is based on the model seen in the Netherlands, moving away from institutionalised care and creating a "neighbourhood that is part of broader society".   Scottish Borders Council is being asked to clear the way for a full business case for the Tweedbank development by next summer.  An outline case for the Hawick scheme should also be in place early next year.  "The care village will be part of the wider community and not seen as a separate institution within an area," explained the council report.  "The vision incorporates community at the heart of the village."

Covid Vaccine ‘Waning Immunity’: How Worried Should I Be?
There have been warnings from doctors and the UK's Health Security Agency that waning immunity is leading to deaths even of people who have had two doses of a Covid vaccine. So how much protection are we left with?  Let's nail some basics. The immune system has two big roles - to stop us getting infected, and if that fails, to clear our bodies of an infection.  I want you to stretch your imagination and picture your immune system as a medieval castle.  Surrounding the castle is a hostile and ruthless army of coronaviruses desperate to break in.  Your first defence is an outer wall patrolled by a legion of archers. These are your body's neutralising antibodies. If they can hold the viral army off, then you won't get infected.  But if the walls crumble and the antibody-archers wander off, then the virus is in. It has stormed the castle and you now have an infection. Yet all is not lost. There are still troops inside the fortified keep at the heart of the castle. These are your memory B and memory T cells. Like knights on horseback they can rally the troops, lead the immunological charge and send the hostile invaders packing.  The Covid vaccines have been training your body's troops - this includes both antibodies and those memory cells that react to an infection - to take on coronavirus.   At least one of those defenders is waning and this is not a surprise. This happens after every vaccine or infection.  "There is good evidence that antibodies are waning with time, and that has left us with obvious defects," says Prof Eleanor Riley, an immunologist from the University of Edinburgh.   The desertion of these antibody-archers from their posts, has been made worse by the emergence of the Delta variant. It is just better at spreading and getting into our body - it's like a new army rocking up outside the walls, but this one's brought a cave troll and siege weapons.   You may have noticed the consequences of this yourself - people you know who have been double vaccinated, but have still caught Covid. Research, which has not been formally published, estimates that the AstraZeneca vaccine reduced any form of Covid symptom by 66% shortly afer the second dose. Five months later that figure had fallen to 47%. For Pfizer, the numbers fell from 90% to 70%.  This is obviously an issue for governments trying to contain the spread of the virus. Whether the viral invasion will cause severe damage as it tries to burn and pillage its way through your body now depends on your second line of defence. However, the vaccines are now keeping fewer people out of hospital.  The greater risk of needing hospital care or even of dying is concentrated in the elderly. The overwhelming majority of deaths in people who have been double vaccinated have been among those over 70. People in that age group are still far better off than someone who they share a birthday with, but turned down the jab. And as you can see, the risks in younger age groups who have been double vaccinated are small.  The constant onslaught of time ages every cell in our body - including those that make up the immune system. Getting older makes it harder to train the immune system with vaccines, and it is slower to respond when an infection arrives. It may be that now antibodies have waned far enough, this frailty in the immune system is being exposed.  All of this is layered on top of the fact that with age tends to come ill health. Since the start of the pandemic, age has been one of the biggest factors in how likely you are to die of it. The oldest people were also the first to be vaccinated, so their immunity has had more time to wane.  People who start with a weakened immune system, including cancer and organ transplant patients, have a subtly different problem as their bodies do not respond as well to vaccines.   "Their antibodies are waning at a similar rate to healthy people, but they obviously start off at a lower point," says Dr Helen Parry, from the University of Birmingham  The good news is that even with waning, these are still exceptionally good vaccines. At the start of the pandemic, people were dreaming of a vaccine that could cut deaths by 50%. Even with waning and in the most at-risk age groups, that protection is still in the region of 80-90%.  The even better news is that there is already evidence that the booster campaign - which has reached more than 11 million people in the UK - is making a difference. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows antibody levels - those first defenders against infection - have gone up again in the oldest age groups.

SSE Reveals £12.5bn Boost in Renewables Investment
Energy firm SSE has announced plans to invest £12.5bn over the next five years in a bid to accelerate its net zero plans.  The plan would see it increase renewable energy output five-fold within 10 years.   The Perth-based company said the move makes it the biggest constructor of offshore wind in the world.   Alistair Phillips-Davies, SSE chief executive, said: "We are constructing more offshore wind than anyone else in the world right now and expanding overseas, delivering the electricity networks needed for net zero and pioneering carbon capture, hydrogen and battery technologies to deliver system flexibility."   Mr Phillips-Davies told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme the company is looking to create "thousands of jobs" with major projects including its Berwick Bank windfarm.   SSE owns and runs Scotland's last fossil-fuel fired power station at Peterhead, but has promised to reduce its emissions through carbon capture technology.  A major carbon project in Aberdeenshire, the Acorn project, recently failed to secure UK Westmnster government backing, but Mr Phillips-Davies said it was still on the reserve list, and his firm would press for investment.

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, lots of enthusiasm! And are DOUBLE Vaccinated.  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