Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 635

Issue # 635                                               Week ending Friday 31st  December 2021
Even At 95, We Need to Get Bolshie with Anyone Who is Giving Us Bother by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

With the daughter at home, I got cajoled into a Christmas Day walk with her two collies, Lance and Sleek. Mrs X waved us off saying she would have something hot for us when we returned. By the time we had walked, or been dragged, out the Arnish road, I was as cold as the welcome that Harry and Meghan get at Buckingham Palace.

How I needed my promised hot welcome. Mrs X was chatting at the garden fence. That was when I spotted a pan on the cooker. Ah, soup. That’s very welcome. It didn’t occur to me that few have soup on Christmas Day. I got a big spoon and dug in. As my grandfather used to say, it just stuck to your ribs. Maybe oxtail?

The cold finally drove Mrs X indoors and her first shrieks were: “Who’s been at the gravy?” Shamefaced, I had to take her to get more at the only shop open. “Quick,” she yelled, “squeeze in there between these cars.” I protested the Qashqai was too wide but she moaned. Finally, I managed to edge in gingerly. As she headed for the Engebret shop, she lambasted me with: “That’s always been your trouble - thinking whatever you have is bigger than it really is.”

I made sure this pan of brown soup-cum-gravy was much bigger. At first, it was too thin. I added cornflour but it became too thick. I added water. Then it was too thin again. It was a viscous circle.

It’s a similar circle because of the Scottish Government’s repeating failures to make ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne implement proper ferry maintenance and to put its hands in its pocket to provide £800,000 - a pittance in real Scottish transport cost terms - to pay CalMac staff to keep the Skye-to-Harris ferry going at full capacity.

But no, transport minister Graeme Dey and Nicola Sturgeon seem intellectually incapable of understanding the vital benefits that would bring to these islands. Or do they just hate islanders? Actually, going by their joint recent dreadful performance, that’s probably it. Why should we support this continuing farcical government with votes?

With the deafening silence from our subservient SNP representatives, they too are now rapidly losing the right to represent us. Is it too early to start a campaign? I’ll wait a bit. New year, new bolshie attitude. It’s never too late.

For instance, Her Maj The Queen is getting bolshie at 95. It struck me as she did that final, lingering soft stare into the camera that she had not even mentioned some family in her 3pm speech, as I stirred the gravy. Charles, tick. Anne, tick. William, tick. Kate, tick. What about Har ...? Nope. Meg ...? Nope. Andr ...? Not a cheep. So there. Ooer, we are not amused. Me and you both, your maj.

We are amused by progress in getting everyone protected from sneaky bug Omicron. I love the latest slogan from the NHS in Scotland. At the beginning of this week we were only at 73 per cent of the population boosted. A catchy slogan makes all the difference in planting an idea in people’s brains. Get boosted by the bells. What a great slogan.

It reminds of a similar slogan the other day on TV in that excellent flick about the Watergate scandal called All The Presidents Men. His editor explains to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward who Bob Colson is. “The most powerful man in the United States is President Nixon. You’ve heard of him? Charles Colson is special counsel to the President. There’s a cartoon on his wall. The caption reads: “When you’ve got ‘em by the bells, their hearts and minds will follow”.” Was it bells? It was something like that.

My resolution is that I am going to be more like my grandfather. A fisherman and seaman in World War I, he felt no need to hold back on the burning questions of the day. He would come out with some unexpected utterances.

A church elder came in for a wee ceilidh one day. As the tea and scones arrived, the elder suddenly began reciting grace, as they do. Butter melted and beverage cooled as the elder endlessly droned on about the ruination of the nation’s morals and all the canoodling outwith holy wedlock.

When it ended, my grandfather objected saying: “Now look here, Mr Macdonald. There is nothing wrong with that hanky-panky before marriage - well, as long as it doesn’t delay the ceremony, of course.”

Covid in Scotland: Record Demand Leads to PCR Test Result Delays
Record levels of demand for Covid PCR tests have left some families waiting up to five days for their results over Christmas, the BBC has learned.  Some who took a PCR in on 23 December only received results on Tuesday.   They must isolate at home until they receive notification of a negative test, meaning many had to change their Christmas plans.  The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) apologised to those waiting "a little longer" for their PCR result.   They said they were adding extra capacity to their laboratories to meet "exceptional demand" from across the UK.   People should normally receive their test results within 48 hours.  It came as both Scotland and England reported record cases over Christmas, driven by the emergence of the new Omicron variant.   In England, the highest number of infections - 113,628 in total - were recorded on Christmas Day.   Infections peaked on Boxing Day in Scotland, where provisional data shows there were 11,030 cases recorded.   In its latest update the Scottish government confirmed 9,360 cases were recorded on Monday.  But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would expect to see case numbers rise further in the days to come.  On Monday PCR test appointments were temporarily unavailable in large parts of the country due to continued high demand.   Among those affected by the delay was primary school teacher Matthew Campbell, from Dundee, who spent Christmas in isolation with his father as they waited for their PCR results.  The pair went for a test on 23 December but Mr Campbell only found out on Tuesday morning that he was negative.  His father tested positive so he would have had to isolate anyway - but he was sad to have missed out on the holidays.  "Usually what we do is we go to a big family party on Christmas Day and another on Boxing Day, but I couldn't go to either of those.  I couldn't see my mum on Christmas Day and my dad couldn't see his partner. It was all a bit strange."   Scotland's national clinical director Jason Leitch told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland the delays were caused by the scale of demand.   "Quite a lot of people went for testing before Christmas in order to try and get Christmas celebrations that were safe if they had symptoms, or if they had contact," he said.   "So I apologise for that, I'm sorry if people had to wait a little bit longer."   Prof Leitch said he believed the immediate problem had been resolved and that most results in Scotland should be reported between 24 and 36 hours.   The UKHSA added: "Fast action has been taken to expand processing capability and add extra capacity to our laboratory network to meet this exceptional demand.   "Our lab technicians and scientists are working as fast as possible to ensure the public receives their results quickly and we apologise to anyone that is having to wait a little longer for their test result."  Others affected by the issue were Nicola and Paul Jenkins, from Glenboig in North Lanarkshire, who had to cancel plans to host Christmas dinner for their wider family.   The couple and their 18-month-old son, Jack, took PCR tests on 23 December after Mr Jenkins, 36, tested positive on a lateral flow device.   Mr Jenkins was eventually informed that his PCR was positive on Tuesday morning. His wife and son have still not received their results.  Mrs Jenkins, 32, told BBC Scotland she called Test and Protect on Boxing Day but staff were "quite dismissive".   "It all feels a bit chaotic at the minute," she said. "There's people with far worse problems than us, but it's been an interesting Christmas."   Another woman - who asked to remain anonymous - told BBC Scotland she received her positive test result on Monday night, after taking the PCR on 23 December.   The woman, who is heavily pregnant and has received both vaccines and the booster, lives with her husband and their six-year-old son in Dundee.   She said she took the test because her brother tested positive on a lateral flow, but she has had no symptoms of the illness and her own LFD tests have repeatedly come back negative.   It "ruined" Christmas, she said. "We were meant to be seeing family I hadn't seen for a while, I was quite looking forward to it.   "Instead, I just spend six or seven hours in bed, really upset. I was just waiting for the result - and I just don't think the delay is acceptable."  A spokesperson for the Scottish government said anyone who has not received a result within 72 hours should call the helpline on 119.

Another Record High Number of Infections
A further 15,849 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Scotland, by far the highest daily case number of the pandemic so far.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Omicron variant was spreading "rapidly" and now accounts for 80% of all cases.   She said further "steep increases" in infections are expected in the coming days and weeks.  However, no changes are to be made to restrictions in Scotland, with curbs expected to remain until 17 January.   Ms Sturgeon also said a decision about whether to reduce the 10-day self-isolation period would be made in the coming week.  The daily infections record has been repeatedly broken in recent days as the faster-spreading Omicron variant takes hold in Scotland.  Ms Sturgeon said 28.9% of all tests carried out on Tuesday were positive, adding up to 15,849 cases - "by some margin the highest overall daily case number reported in the pandemic to date".  The number of people in hospital with the virus increased by 80 to 679 - the highest since the start of December - with 36 in intensive care.  The first minister said hospital figures were "broadly stable", but said the government must "exercise caution" given the time lag between rising case numbers and hospital admissions.   She said the coming weeks would produce a "clearer picture" about the impact of Omicron, and that it was "essential that we slow transmission as much as possible" in the meantime.  Scots have been asked to stay at home as much as possible in the coming weeks, and to socialise in groups of no more than three households.  Large events have been cancelled and fresh restrictions placed on hospitality venues, with nightclubs closed entirely.   Ms Sturgeon said these curbs were expected to continue until 17 January, and announced details of how £375m of financial support for businesses will be allocated.   This includes £32m for hospitality and leisure firms, a further £10m for businesses "most severely impacted by the requirement for table services", £5m for nightclubs, and £17m for the events sector.  Talks are also being held with the sports sector about the impact of the restrictions on large events like football matches.  Ms Sturgeon said: "There simply isn't an easy trade-off between protecting health and protecting the economy.   If Covid continues to spread rapidly, the economic impact in the form of staff absences and diminished consumer confidence will be severe. We're already seeing those impacts. So doing nothing won't help business."
Analysis by Lisa Summers, health correspondent, Scotland
The data is jumping around a bit just now - in part because of reporting delays over Christmas but also strains in the system as more people come forward for tests.  Almost 16,000 daily positive cases is probably in tune with the central estimates of modellers but we could still see a sharp rise over the next few days as the data starts to catch up. It may be that the worst-case scenario has been avoided because people have adapted their behaviour even before restrictions were brought in.  For the first time in five days there is information on the numbers of people in hospital with Covid. It shows a small rise, but not a huge spike. Good news, but remember the early Omicron cases would largely be in young people who are less likely to become severely ill. We are still to see the impact of mixing across generations over Christmas.  Early data from London, which is a little ahead of the rest of UK, show hospital admissions with Omicron are lower - even in older age groups - and that the number of people needing intensive care is even less. It also appears that many cases are incidental, with patients admitted for something else and then testing positive.  But the experts continue to warn that even if Omicron is milder, a small proportion of a large number has the potential to cause major disruption for the NHS. Health and social care staff are exempt from 10-day isolation if they have a negative PCR test, but staff absences remain high, and it only takes a small increase in Covid patients for other care to be put on hold.  We still don't know when the peak of this wave will hit, and how good boosters will be at protecting the most vulnerable. Scientists will say it is still too early to draw any firm conclusions from the data.   Ms Sturgeon also said ministers were "weighing the risks and benefits" of shortening the isolation period for Covid patients.   People who test positive in Scotland have to isolate for 10 days, while those in England can leave quarantine after seven days if they record two negative tests.    The first minister said consideration was being given to matching this, and to potentially easing the requirement for household contacts to isolate - something which is not required in England for double-vaccinated household contacts.  She said any decision would be made in the coming week, and come into effect from 5 January.   The Scottish Conservatives have repeatedly called for the rules to be changed, saying they are causing staff shortages for key services.   A total of 3,316 NHS staff were absent in the week to 28 December for Covid-related reasons, the highest level of absences since March and close to double the 1,771 recorded at the end of November.  At Holyrood, Tory leader Douglas Ross called for immediate action, saying that "the first minister's message on these essential changes is yet again to tune in next week".Scottish Labour's Anas Sarwar meanwhile called for the government to set out the scientific rationale for maintaining 10-day isolation when some countries are cutting the requirement in half.   He said: "Staff absences are spiking now, and that is having knock on effects on our services and industries."  Ms Sturgeon said the decision was "finely balanced", saying that easing quarantine rules prematurely could actually increase pressure on the economy by spreading the virus faster.

Scotrail Absences Causing 'Significant Disruption'
Scotland's rail network is facing "significant disruption" as more than 300 ScotRail staff are currently isolating due to Covid.   The operator said more than 100 services were cancelled on Wednesday.  ScotRail will move to a temporary timetable in January in a bid to offset the impact of the new Omicron variant.   The data emerged as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed a record 15,849 people tested positive in Scotland on Tuesday.  ScotRail communications director David Ross said 320 staff were currently absent, including more than 100 drivers and about 60 conductors.   It is about about 6% of the workforce of 5,300 drivers, conductors and engineers.   The firm has repeatedly warned that staff absences were affecting services over the last couple of weeks, asking passengers to check services before they travel.   Mr Ross told BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime programme that the 10-day isolation rule on its own was not to blame for the cancellations as it only accounted for up to 25% of staff who are currently absent.   He added: "The most significant impact is people who have tested positive themselves or who have symptoms and are awaiting a PCR result so, regardless of the household contact policy there will still be an impact on our services."   Mr Ross said fewer people are using trains at the moment but urged passengers to check before they travel, space out as much as possible and to wait for the next service if a train is too busy.  ScotRail has said it will continue to review staff absence levels over the coming weeks in the event of a further spike in cases.

Scottish Education System is More Caring Than in England Report Claims
Schools with ‘nurture rooms’, including those in Glasgow, are being praised for a fall in rates of exclusions amid claims the Scottish education system is more caring than in England.  In 2020/21, only one child was excluded from school and sent somewhere else to learn - known as being ‘removed from the register’, attributable in part to the school closures and home learning caused by the pandemic.   Some 8,322 temporary exclusions were carried out over the same time frame, and the rate is now 11.9 per 1,000 pupils, with the majority vastly male.  Numbers have decreased drastically, with three pupils “removed from the register” in 2018/19, and 15,000 temporary exclusions carried out in the same time frame.   In 2010/11, the rate of temporary exclusion was 39.9 per 1,000 pupils, totalling 26,784, while 60 pupils were barred from their schools.   Decreases between 2018/19 and 2020/21 were partly attributable to kids spending less time in school due to the pandemic.  Schools in England recorded 5,057 permanent exclusions and 310,733 suspensions in 2019/20 - however the school population down south is 8.9 million pupils, compared to 792,000 in Scotland.   Experts say the trend in Scotland is due to a range of factors, including enhanced teacher understanding of trauma and mental health, robustly maintained professional standards, and collaborative policy-making.   Recent years have also seen new approaches developed for tackling difficult or aggressive pupil behaviour.    Glasgow City Council moved away from pupil referral units, instead creating “enhanced nurture” facilities that are located onsite in mainstream schools.  Exclusion is used only in extreme circumstances, with teachers given specialist training so they are better able to assist distressed children and young people and has been recognised around the UK for its approach.  Professor Gillean McCluskey, co-director of research and the research excellence framework co-ordinator at Edinburgh University’s Moray House School of Education and Sport, said similar initiatives could be found across Scotland.  She said: “Most schools will talk about the importance of nurturing principles. When I talk to my English colleagues about that there’s a blank look.”   But, while acknowledging “huge success” in reducing the national figures, she warned the trend was not equally distributed.   The exclusion rate for those with ASN due to factors such as autism, experience of trauma or abuse, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was 25.5 per 1,000 pupils in 2020/21.  This was almost five times that recorded for kids without such needs.  Statistics also show the rate among those living in the 20 per cent of areas associated with most deprivation was 18.8 - nearly four times that recorded for those in the least deprived areas.   Male pupils were more than three times as likely to be removed from school that females, with a rate of 18.2 per 1,000.   Prof McCluskey, who is also involved in Excluded Lives, a UK-wide project, said poor levels of resourcing and support were increasing the risk of unmet needs producing behaviour which might lead to an exclusion.   She added: “It’s one of the things that concerns me most - that we’ve managed to reduce these exclusions dramatically, and with huge success over the last 10 years.   But the patterns of inequality are exactly the same. Schools don’t feel like they can do the job that they want to do, and we know, for instance, the things that teachers will say again and again, particularly around mental health, is that getting access to support is just so difficult.   “So, the partner agencies - I’m not blaming them, I’m saying they’re also under-resourced, mental health in particular is a really big issue, but social work as well - all these are under resourced, under-recruiting.  They’re recruiting poorly, they’re not retaining staff. There are big issues in the ways in which we can do what we can within education. So the supports aren’t there.”   A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Our national policy makes it clear that exclusion from school should always be a last resort and that there is a need to consider the individual circumstances of certain groups of children.  These include those with a disability, looked after children and young people, children and young people from the most deprived areas and those with additional support needs, particularly if those additional support needs are social, emotional or behavioural.”

Inverness Castle: Opening Up 'Private Site' to the Public
Inverness Castle has largely been closed off to the general public for almost 200 years, but work has begun on opening it up to locals and visitors to the city.   The two 19th Century-constructed red sandstone buildings that make up the castle site were built as a court and a prison.   It was only last year that the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service moved out of Inverness Castle to a new purpose-built building in another part of the city.  Highland Council is now leading a project to have the hilltop property turned into a tourist attraction.   The redevelopment forms part of the £315m Inverness and Highland City Region Deal, with the Scottish government committing £15m and the UK Westminster government £3m towards the castle project.   LDN Architects is leading the design work.   "The common misconception is that it is going to be a grand castle with a big formal hall," says Stewart MacKellor, of LDN.  "A lot of the original features had been hidden over throughout the years by plasterboard and carpets.   "We have peeled all of that back."  Mr MacKellor added: "We weren't expecting to find much, but we did find quite a lot of stone flagged floors, timber dado panelling and working window shutters."  The contract for the building work needed to revamp the castle is out to tender, and a contractor could be in place early next year.   The plan is to the turn the site into a "gateway to the Highlands" and a place celebrating the "spirit of the Highlands."   High Life Highland (HLH), which now manages the site, is working with communities and arts and culture organisations to find the best ways of using the castle to showcase the city and the wider region.   It could open as an attraction in about three years' time.  HLH chief executive Steve Walsh said the castle would "signpost all the fantastic opportunities that are spread right across the region".   The castle was built in the 19th Century on a site where castles had stood previously in the past.   Visitors will also be able to explore the history of the Highlands, and of the castle site itself.   Fortifications had stood on the hill overlooking the River Ness since medieval times.   Over centuries, previous castles were attacked and burned down only to be rebuilt and then come under siege again.   The last of these strongholds was destroyed by Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite forces before the Battle of Culloden in 1746.  Mr MacKellor said: "This site had always been a seat of power in the north of Scotland and has been fought over, and it has been a private site.  For the first time in its occupied history it is going to be given over to the public."

Covid Debate Shows Why England is Another Country and I'm Glad to Live in Scotland by– Tommy Sheppard MP
As we drag our way towards the second quietest Hogmanay of my lifetime, we can all agree it’ll be good to see the back of 2021.  We’d hoped for better than this, but the coronavirus mutation had other ideas.  We know enough now to say Omicron is less severe than its predecessors. Perhaps we’re now on a trajectory where each successive wave damages us less and less.   The pandemic will morph into an endemic viral illness. By the time we get to Omega, for most of us maybe these viruses will just be a seasonal inconvenience.  But we’re not there yet. And in the meantime, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Much as I don’t want theatres closed and pubs and restaurants a quarter full, I’d rather that than see our NHS unable to cope and our emergency services compromised.   So, I’m glad I live in Scotland. I’m glad we have someone in charge who listens to scientific advice and acts decisively to protect public health. At least the Scottish government is taking responsibility and doing what it can to compensate those businesses affected.   Not for the first time, England looks like another country. There, dither and delay is the order of the day. And it’s counterproductive. If you’re running a venue, is it better to have the government say you don’t have to close but scares your customers away?   Why this procrastination? Well, as with Brexit and so much else, because of an internal argument in the Tory party.   Two weeks ago, 100 Tory MPs, fully half their backbenchers, voted against even the baby steps Johnson introduced in England before Christmas. Among their ranks are some shocking views. Take Joy Morrisey MP. She decried the measures as those of a “public health socialist state”.   Her comments give us an insight into Tory thinking. It’s true public health mandates are a constraint on individual freedom. For most of us, that’s as it should be.   But for the right wing of the Tory party the freedom of individuals to do what they want regardless of the consequences for others is paramount. The freedom to exploit people through low wages. The freedom to pollute. The freedom to incite hate.  For most of us, individual freedoms are balanced against social responsibility. That’s why we pay some of our wages in taxes, why we don’t drive when drunk, and why we isolate when we have an infectious disease.  For me, this applies to countries too. I can’t wait to reset our politics and give people in Scotland the choice of a better way of governing themselves.  I want Scotland to become politically independent so that we have the freedom to run things the way we want. But I accept we have responsibilities to others too, starting with the good people of England, currently being treated like playthings by the Tory right.   We share this island and whether it’s marine protection, inter-city travel, climate action, or a host of other matters, we need to work together in a better partnership.  Independence gives us that opportunity. Far from keeping us separate, it will be the basis for engagement with others on an equal basis. So, Happy New Year when it comes. Let’s make this a better one.

Glasgow City Council Has Made Nearly £15m From Parking Fines in the Past Three Years
Shopkeepers have urged for more consideration to be given to the cost of parking in town, as footfall in the city centre has dropped massively in the pandemic.   Charges were also suspended for four months in 2020 to support key workers at the start of the pandemic and were reintroduced in July last year.   Figures obtained by the Herald revealed Glasgow City Council collected £5,931,583 from 2018 to 2019 from parking charges in the inner city zone.  This rose to £6,391,727 the following year when Sunday parking charges were introduced.   Collections dropped to £2,285,785 during the pandemic, from April 2020 to April 2021. According to the council, operating costs for parking are around £2m.   Soni Ahmed, co-founder of MAIA Gifts on Bath Street, said: “Christmas accounts for 60 per cent of our year so it’s such a vital part of us being able to sustain the rest of the year.   It keeps us going through the quieter months of January and February when nobody wants to think about gifts at all. It’s been a bit of a slow burner this year. Footfall is down in the city, we rely a lot on the city worker.”   Figures show shopping footfall dropped by 22 per cent last month compared to two years ago and prior to the pandemic.  David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said efforts to reduce cars must be balanced with support for the struggling high street as visitors to out-of-town shopping centres such as Silverburn can park free of charge 24 hours a day.   Mr Lonsdale said: “Our city centres have a great deal to offer. However, I know from speaking to many shopkeepers that they view costly and restrictive parking as a real bugbear for shoppers and something which holds back footfall.   If we are to see greater levels of shopper footfall on Glasgow’s streets and a more vibrant city centre as we recover from the pandemic then new thinking is urgently required, with parking made easier and much more affordable.”  In the year to March 2019, the department of neighbourhoods, regeneration and sustainability spent roughly £160m, with more than £50m generated through earned income, fees and charges.  A council source said: “If you didn’t have that £50m (and the parking charges within it), would you do less - spend less on roads (£20m), street cleaning (£19m) or refuse collection and disposal (£70m) - or charge more, and for what - cremations and burials, parking?”.  More recently, the council has unveiled possible plans to charge Glasgow residents in their own neighbourhoods based on the level of emissions from vehicles.  The move, which is already being introduced in Edinburgh, would see residents’ parking permit costs calculated on how polluting their vehicles are.  The council is also looking at introducing charges for workplace parking in the city, with cash raised going towards boosting sustainable transport.  The levy would involve a workplace licensing scheme - with the employer paying for a licence. It aims to encourage more employees to ditch the car and travel to work in a sustainable way.   A rollout of neighbourhood parking permits is also continuing with the latest in North Kelvin provoking anger from residents, who say the area is facing longer daily restrictions that other parts of the city.

Milestone for Highland Council's Hydro Project As Archimedes Screw Take Another Step Towards Completion
A renewable energy project being developed for Highland Council has reached another milestone.   The stainless-steel 'envelope' for the 92kW Archimedes Screw hydroelectric scheme in Inverness is being installed.  Situated on the banks of the River Ness, directly next to the Holm Mills bridge, this Archimedes screw project will generate and supply more than 500,000 kwh of green electricity annually to the nearby Inverness Leisure Centre – one of the highest consuming buildings across the Highland Council estate.   Councillor Trish Robertson, the chairwoman of the Climate Change Working Group, said: “We are delighted to see the continued progress of the Archimedes Screw project. This will offset the organisation’s reliance on grid supplied electricity and also help reduce the council's carbon footprint.   This is a flagship project for sustainability which is utilising historical infrastructure from a disused hydro scheme and using the surrounding area to create a destination.   The innovative structure and supporting interactive content will ensure the scheme is a welcome addition to a high footfall area of the city, further strengthening the river as an attraction and re-introducing it as a valued asset for renewable generation.”  Martin MacDonald, project manager said: “This is obviously a massive milestone for the project. The envelope looks fantastic, and the surrounding landscaping and interpretive content is starting to take shape.   The contractors have been absolutely first class and we are already getting great feedback from the public on the new addition to the river. We can't wait to open the site to the public in 2022 and hopefully help inspire the next generation of engineers in Highland.”  The River Ness Hydro will be officially named in January 2022 following a naming competition which was open to school pupils across Highland.

Trump Scottish Golf Resorts Claimed Over £3m in Furlough
Donald Trump's golf courses and leisure businesses in Scotland claimed over £3m in UK government furlough money, newly-published accounts show.  Covid restrictions caused substantial losses at Trump resorts in Ayrshire and Aberdeenshire with both companies reducing staff.   Trump Turnberry saw turnover more than halved and it recorded a loss of more than £3m in 2020.  The other course and resort at Balmedie also reported a loss, of £1.3m.  Donald Trump's mother came from the Isle of Lewis, and the former US president is said to have spoken fondly of his Scottish ancestry.   He opened his first golf resort on the Menie estate in Aberdeenshire in 2012, amid opposition over potential environmental damage, and later tried to stop a wind farm being built off the coast, arguing it would spoil the view.   In 2014 he bought the Turnberry golf resort in South Ayrshire from a Dubai-based company.   He handed control of both courses to his sons Donald Junior and Eric shortly before he became president in 2017, but he retained a financial interest.   Critics of Mr Trump recently lost a legal bid to force the Scottish government to investigate how he paid for the courses, using an unexplained wealth order.   According to accounts filed with Companies House, Golf Recreation Scotland Ltd, which owns the Turnberry golf course and resort, saw turnover fall from £19.7m in 2019 to £6.7m in 2020.   It made a profit of £321,000 in 2019, and a loss of £3.4m in 2020.  The resort was closed from 23 March to 15 July 2020, and again from 20 November to 26 April 2021.  The company received a total of £2.3m in grants under the furlough scheme in 2020, the accounts say, while the average number of employees fell from 541 to 289.   A subsidiary of the company, SLC Turnberry Ltd, made further furlough claims of between £435,000 and £1.1m from January to August 2021, according to government data not included in the published accounts.  "Government support was helpful to retain as many jobs as possible, however, uncertainty of the duration of support and the pandemic's sustained impact meant that redundancies were required to prepare the business for the long term effects to the hospitality industry," say the accounts, signed by Eric Trump.   Trump International Golf Club Scotland Limited, which owns Donald Trump's golf course in Aberdeenshire, also saw a steep drop in turnover, from £3.3m in 2019 to £1.1m in 2020, although the company's losses rose only slightly, from £1.1m to £1.3m.   The accounts note that while golf was permitted for much of the year, the Macleod House hotel was closed from 21 March onwards, and the restaurants and dining facilities only opened in June and closed again on 20 November.  "The UK Westminster government furlough scheme was helpful to retain as many jobs as possible, and the majority of employees were reinstated over the course of the year," the accounts say.  The company received £452,000 in from the furlough scheme in 2020, according to the accounts. Separately, government data shows that Trump International Golf Club Scotland Limited claimed between £85,000 and £205,000 of furlough money from January to August 2021.  The average number of employees fell from 84 in 2019 to 63 in 2020, the accounts show.   The ultimate controlling parties of both companies are the trustees of the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust, registered in Florida, the accounts say.

Coastal Cleaning Project is Supported by Financial Firm
A project which is dedicated to keeping coastlines in Aberdeenshire clean was supported by a financial firm in 2021.   The East Grampian Coastal Partnership (EGCP) has been running its Turning the Plastic Tide initiative and received a helping hand from Acumen Financial Planning.   Staff members took part in beach cleans at the Forvie Nature Reserve and collected 53kg of litter, debris and microplastics.  The company sponsors the work of the partnership, so it is able to continue to keep the shores in top condition.   A spokesman said: "A few of the team spent two very worthwhile mornings at Forvie Nature Reserve collecting litter, debris and microplastics with the East Grampian Coastal Partnership, who we very proudly sponsor.   It was hugely eye-opening to discover what seemed a reasonably litter-free beach actually had a lot of work to be done. Across the two days, the team managed to collect 53kg worth of debris.   It was a very educational experience for all, and a big thank you to EGCP and the Turning the Plastic Tide project for allowing us to play a small part in keeping our coastlines clean."   The project has excelled in delivering benefits to coastal communities between Fraserburgh and East Haven in Angus, primarily through the delivery of beach clean support and education to primary and secondary schools.   It was started in December 2017 to help tackle the blight of marine litter.  

Distillery Shows Support for Burns Site
An Annan business has been announced as a corporate sponsor at one of the region’s historic sites.  Annandale Distillery will be supporting Ellisland Museum and Farm – ‘The Rural home of Robert Burns’, in an historic agreement beginning in the new year.  Professor David Thomson, distillery owner and an ambassador of The Robert Burns World  Federation, said: “We are very pleased to be the first corporate sponsor for Ellisland Farm, which Robert Burns built as his first marital home with Jean Armour, and where he wrote some of his most famous works, including Auld Lang Syne, and Tam o’Shanter.”  His co-custodian Teresa Church added: “Burns tourism is worth more than £20million to the economy of Dumfries and Galloway each year and we believe this will only grow as tourism returns to pre-pandemic levels.   By working with Ellisland Museum and Farm in what will be the 226th year since Burns’ passing, we are showing that we support their plans to not only preserve and develop one of the most important Burns sites, but also to grow and introduce Burns to new audiences – young, old, local, national and international – which will increase visitor footfall to our amazing region.”   The couple hope the deal, which will start in Scotland’s Year of Stories, will allow the stories of both venues, as well as The Globe Inn in Dumfries which they also own, to be heard by a wider audience.   Thanking them, Ellisland business manager Joan McAlpine said: “We are very grateful to Annandale Distillery and the Globe Inn for their support and partnership. Annandale Distillery and the Globe Inn lead the way in Burns Tourism in Dumfries and Galloway and we look forward to working with them to further develop the incredible potential of literary tourism linked to the bard in this part of Scotland. “Ellisland is a fantastic cultural asset for the community – the home designed and built by Burns himself and the birthplace of Auld Lang Syne. The sponsorship will help us take its story to more people and develop its potential.”

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) is now back rehearsing on a face to face basis at Macquarie Presbyterian Church in Eastwood.  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

Tickets for Brigadoon 2 APRIL 2022 WILL GO ON SALE FROM
9am DECEMBER 10th


Alaistair Saunders, Vice President/Publicity Officer
Bundanoon Highland Gathering Inc.
PO Box 74, Bundanoon, NSW 2578, Australia  Ph: 61 2 4883 7471