Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 638

Issue # 638                                     Week ending Saturday 22nd  January 2022
Waiting for A Toy Named Sue But She’s Not Having A Whale of A Time Either by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Some killer whales are so well known to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust they have a name. Known as orcas, they come down from Iceland to be photographed by fishermen and ferry passengers in the Minch. Recently, two whales known to the trust members as John Coe and Aquarius were spotted splashing about off Skye.

John Coe, with his distinctive chunk missing from his tail probably due to a shark attack, was even spotted off Cornwall. What fantastic and intelligent creatures. Our magnificent marine friends. Let us salute them.

Some people saluted the telly when transmission ended at night. Our family were only watchers of the royals, I’ll leave it at that. We never stood for that anti-Scottish dirge with those annoying words - rebellious Scots to crush indeed. Why Scotland has not demanded it be changed is matter of great shame. Although certain neighbours of ours claimed to be like gormless footballers before a big game mouthing these inanities, there was never anyone at that time of night to check.

It was in 1972 that Grampian TV, as it then was, stopped showing their flickering, fluttering flag while the anthem played on a well-worn loop. The BBC took a few more years to come to their senses but they still play it when Radio 4 closes down.

Now the GB News channel, that tiresome newcomer, is trying to persuade us to turn over by playing the anthem every morning. Previous good excuses not to switch to GB News were nasty Nigel Farage, Dan Wootton, Neil Oliver and now we have another. Just imagine if this government makes the BBC merge with GB News, as one report speculates. If I had to watch that drivel, I would sue.

Everybody needs a Sue to keep them right. If you want to find out what you did nearly two years ago, call her. She will launch an investigation and make enquiries. Before long she will present you with a report to let you know what you did. Then what happens? Well, if she thinks you did something wrong, you could simply decide to modify your behaviour - or not.

If you ask Sue for recommendations, she may tell you that you can ignore her report. Or she may decide that you’ve learned your lesson. Or she may decide you are a hopeless menace and that you must just pack it all in. The only problem for Sue is that Sue works for you. Let’s just say that she finds that you were a very naughty chap and that you should resign, and you don’t. What then happens to Sue? She will have been used as a plaything, a mere toy.

Nothing will happen because of Sue’s report. Despite the breathless wait, it’s all about your supporters. If they want you to stay and keep the group intact, that’s what will happen. So Sue will be ignored and she’ll have to head for the exit herself. Oh Sue, poor you.

It’s a great name, Sue. Who are well-known Sues? Susan Boyle. Susan Calman and leather jump-suited Suzi Quatro, who is in her 70s now and looking fabulous. Waow, when I compare her to Mrs X,  Suzi is, er, well, quite a bit older. I’ll stick with the young ’un.

Then there’s Susie Dent. She’s the geeky lady in Dictionary Corner on Countdown and on Jimmy Carr’s naughty version, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. Being a word person, a lexicographer, she researches less popular words and what they mean or used to mean. Susie has a Word Of The Day on Twitter and she has a knack of making them well-timed. Word of the day on Monday was sparple.

It is, of course, a 14th-century word for deflecting unwanted attention from one thing by making a big deal of another. Susie tweeted that just as Number 10 was trying to take the heat off some politician by announcing it was freezing the TV licence, thereby starting the process of killing the BBC. The Beeb is packed with trendy lefties, many Tories claim. Many wanted to do that for ages.

Just like I wanted to write a column without naming a single politician. No, Nigel Farage certainly is not.

Almost as much as I have wanted to see killer whales. Did you know killer whales play weird whale music to each other? I suppose when a lot of them get together in the Minch it is an orcastra.

Scotland to Lift Most Remaining Covid Restrictions
Scotland's Covid-19 restrictions are to be eased, with nightclubs reopening, large indoor events resuming and social distancing rules dropped.   The changes will take effect from Monday 24 January after a "significant fall" in new case numbers.   However people are still being asked to work from home and to take lateral flow tests before meeting with others.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that Scotland had "turned the corner on the Omicron wave".   Guidance advising adults against meeting up with more than three households at a time will also be scrapped, along with curbs on indoor contact sports.   And ministers have decided against extending the vaccine passport scheme to more hospitality settings "at this stage".  Ms Sturgeon said that while Omicron is still infecting "large numbers of people", there had been a significant fall in the number of new infections over the past two weeks.   A total of 20,268 positive cases have been reported over the past three days, compared to 36,526 over the same three days last week.  The percentage of tests coming back positive has dropped from almost 30% in early January to under 20% now.  It is now thought that the Omicron wave peaked in the first week of January, and the number of people being admitted to hospital with the virus is also falling.  Restrictions introduced over the festive period are being phased out, with limits on crowds at outdoor events such as football matches having been lifted on Monday of this week.  From next Monday, the limits on attendance at indoor public events, the requirement for 1m physical distancing and table service in hospitality venues, and the requirement for nightclubs to close will also be removed.   However longer-running measures such as the use of face coverings on public transport and indoor public places will continue, while Ms Sturgeon said people were advised to continue to keep gatherings "small" to reduce the risk of infection.  People should also continue to work from home wherever possible for now, but Ms Sturgeon said talks would be held with businesses about "a return to a more hybrid approach from the start of February".  The first minister said that Scotland was "once again entering a calmer phase of the pandemic", but warned there was still "significant pressure" on health services.  She said: "Although we can be increasingly optimistic at this stage, we must all still play our part in helping further slow the spread of the virus."   The changes were broadly welcomed by business groups, with CBI Scotland saying the easing of rules for hospitality was "a huge relief to firms desperate to start trading their way to recovery after a difficult festive period".  The Scottish Chambers of Commerce echoed this, and welcomed the decision not to extend vaccine passports to more venues - while calling on ministers to "remove the shackles from offices as urgently as possible".  And the Federation of Small Businesses said withdrawing restrictions "doesn't mean that local economies will necessarily bounce back", calling for the government to "work hard to build business and consumer confidence".   The Scottish Conservatives also welcomed the easing of Covid measures, with health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane saying there had been a "sea change" in government policy "towards trusting the Scottish public".   However the party called for the vaccine passport scheme to be scrapped altogether, and for a "credible plan" to tackle waiting times in the NHS.   Ms Sturgeon said the decision on vaccine passports was "finely balanced", but that if case numbers were to rise again then extending the scheme to all licensed hospitality venues "may well be a more proportionate alternative to other, more restrictive measures".   Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the changes would "offer hope to a lot of people who can once again look forward to getting some more normality back in their lives".  However he said businesses were "teetering on the brink", and called on the government to go further in getting promised financial support to firms.

£10m of Cocaine Hidden in Belgian Waffle Lorry
Four men have admitted drugs charges following a £10m cocaine raid.   James Davidson, David Mullarkey, Ellis Hardy and Wayne Smith were caught by detectives on a Glasgow industrial estate in June 2019.   They were moving the 30kg high-purity haul from an HGV to a van at the site where Mullarkey ran a kitchen firm.   The High Court in Glasgow was told the drugs were smuggled in a lorry used for transporting Belgian waffles.   The four men each admitted being involved in the transportation and distribution of cocaine, and were remanded in custody ahead of sentencing next month.  The court heard that police were initially monitoring 42-year-old Hardy, who was observed with Smith, 39, in a Transit van the day before the raid on 22 June.  They eventually travelled to Hillington industrial estate where Davidson, 58, had also driven in his HGV.   He appeared to be legitimately transporting £15,000 of Belgian waffles but the drugs had been hidden in specially-adapted compartments in both vehicles.  Mullarkey, 47, was then seen - he ran DM Kitchens which was based at the industrial estate.  The watching police went on to hear banging, sawing and drilling involving both vehicles. Soon afterwards, officers moved in.  Prosecutor Greg Farrell said: "The cocaine recovered from within the Transit van had previously been concealed in the HGV driven by Davidson.   Both had been adapted to create concealed spaces.  On June 22, at DM Kitchens, the four were in the process of removing the cocaine from the lorry and secreting it in the Transit van for onward distribution."   The taped packages of drugs had a purity of up to 84%, and a potential value of £9.96m.  Police also found encrypted mobile phones but they were unable to access any data on them.   Mullarkey's lawyer Dale Hughes told the hearing: "He was the owner of the premises. At the time, he was in difficult financial circumstances."   Sentencing on Davidson, of Yoker, Glasgow, Mullarkey, of Stepps, Lanarkshire, as well as Hardy and Smith, both of Mitcham, London, was deferred until 15 February in Edinburgh.   Judge Jamie Gilchrist also continued consideration of the four being hit with Serious Crime Prevention Order curfews.

JK Rowling Tweet by Trans Activists 'Not Criminal'
No action will be taken against transgender activists who targeted author JK Rowling, police have said.   The Harry Potter author complained to police after campaigners posted a photo of her Edinburgh home on Twitter.   Ms Rowling, who has been criticised for her views on transgender issues, described it as "doxxing" - the malicious act of publishing personal information.   Police Scotland have confirmed that no criminality was established.  Ms Rowling claimed her home address was exposed when a photo of the three people outside her home was put online in November.  She wrote on Twitter that the image depicted the activists in front of her home, "carefully positioning themselves to ensure" the address was visible.   She believed the activists had attempted to "intimidate" her out of "speaking up for women's sex-based rights".   The campaigners deleted the photo the day after it was posted.  Ms Rowling sparked controversy in June 2020 for posting tweets which took issue with the phrase "people who menstruate" - she objected to the avoidance of the use of the word "women".   In a lengthy blog post, the writer said her interest in trans issues stemmed from being a survivor of abuse and having concerns around single-sex spaces.   Critics said her views "diminished the identity" of trans people, while stars from the Harry Potter films, including Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, distanced themselves from her comments.  A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: "Inquiries were carried out and no criminality has been established."

Leverburgh Lifeboat Station in Harris Saved From Closure
A lifeboat station in the Western Isles that was at risk of closure is set to resume service.   RNLI Leverburgh in Harris was established in 2012, but in November 2019 operations were suspended after difficulties retaining a crew.   Following a two-year consultation on its future, it will now be able to continue with a smaller lifeboat.   It will operate a four-person Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat. It had previously had a six-crew Shannon class lifeboat.  RNLI Leverburgh has sufficient crew for the new craft, but is seeking more volunteers.  The lifeboat station was opened following a community campaign. Islanders have raised about £25,000 a year for the RNLI.  Before the service was suspended, Leverburgh responded to 97 shouts - emergency call outs - and assisted 86 people.

KT Tunstall and Skerryvore Set to Appear At Dumfries' Online Big Burns Supper
The festival has been postponed due to the current coronavirus situation but a free event hosted by Eddie Reader will go ahead on January 25  KT Tunstall, Skerryvore and Tide Lines are among the acts who will be taking part in Dumfries’ online Big Burns Supper this month.  The popular event was due to start today with a bumper programme of live events, including a carnival around the town, but has been postponed until June due to the rise in Omicron cases and updated Covid regulations.  However, a special free online event will go ahead on Burns Night – Tuesday, January 25 – on its social media channels as Eddi Reader’s Big Burns Supper.  Last year, more than 320,000 online viewers logged on to see the Burns Night virtual event by the BBS hosted by Scottish comedian, Janey Godley. People in 50 countries tuned in to watch performances by special guests including musicians KT Tunstall, Donovan and Skerryvore, Tide Lines and Dougie McLean, which was streamed free across the world on the Big Burns Supper Facebook and YouTube channels.  And this year’s offering is expected to be just as popular.  Graham Main, chief executive at Big Burns Supper, has announced that more big name performers and local talent have now signed up to make appearances on the online spectacular being hosted by Eddi.   He said: “Despite being unable to host our Big Burns Supper winter fringe this year there was no way we were letting Burns Night pass without a significant celebration.   As planned, the eminently talented Eddi Reader will play host to an eclectic evening of comedy, music and mirth and our diverse programme will feature something to tickle every taste bud.”  The virtual gathering will include KT Tunstall from Los Angeles, Dervish in Dublin, Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5, comedians Ross Leslie and Richard Pulsford, and Scottish TV presenter and former captain of Glasgow Wheelchair basketball team Mark Dougan.  There will also be homegrown musical talent including Amy Papiransky, Dumfries Community Choir, David Bass and Chazz, The Lucky Doves and Jack Hunter.   KT Tunstall said: “I feel honoured to have been asked by Big Burns Supper to step in and Help Save Burns Night in 2022.   I love my Scottish heritage and Burns Night celebrations continue to play a hugely important role in the arts and culture scene, not only in Scotland but across the world.   I can’t think of a better way to spend it than alongside exceptional talent such as Eddi Reader, Skerryvore, and many more, as part of the diverse and inclusive Big Burns Supper event.   Remembering all holding hands to sing Auld Lang Syne together takes on stark significance this year and I look forward to connecting with folks across the world in the spirit of friendship and kinship, with performance, poetry and laughter this Burns Night.”  The innovative BBS team have also decided to add another half a dozen shows into their online mix this month – from Monday to January 29. Entirely free to view, they will also be broadcast on its Facebook and YouTube channels and have to be booked in advance via www.bigburnssupper.com.

New Transport Blueprint Unveiled for Scotland
A mass transit network in Glasgow and bridges or tunnels to some of Scotland's islands are among the ideas in the Scottish government's new transport strategy.   Ministers have made 45 recommendations to guide transport investment decisions over the next 20 years.   Improving public transport links in the biggest city regions is at the heart of the blueprint.  Schemes to encourage more people to walk and cycle are also prioritised.   The Scottish government hopes that shifting the priorities of transport spending to greener projects will help tackle climate emissions in the coming years.  The strategy does not give timescales or funding commitments for its recommendations.  The ideas to be explored over the next two decades include:  Introducing more 20mph speed limits and zones;   Creating networks of segregated freeways for cycling and walking;   Improved mass transit systems for Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow;    Electrifying more rail routes including the Fife Circle and Perth to Inverness route;   Improvements to the A75 and A77 road corridors in the south west of Scotland;   A feasibility study in replacing ferry routes with either bridges or tunnels at the Sound of Harris and Sound of Barra  Michael Matheson, the cabinet secretary for transport, said: "The investment decisions we make now have never been more important.    A green recovery from Covid-19 will set us on a path to delivering a fair and just transition to Net Zero.  This review represents a repositioning of our transport investment priorities - the focus is firmly on how transport can help us protect our climate and improve lives. It takes a balanced and fair approach to all modes of transport, and all areas of Scotland."   The idea of a city-wide metro system in Glasgow was first proposed in 2019 and would involve reviving abandoned rail routes, converting heavy rail to light rail and developing on-street trams.   Scottish Labour and Glasgow MSP Pauline McNeill said: "Today's announcement failed to provide answers on what the Glasgow metro project will look like, when work will begin and how the work will be funded.   Glasgow is in desperate need of investment to help it recover from the pandemic and make up for the chronic lack of investment over the last 15 years."   A spokesman for Glasgow Airport said the new transit system would "have a transformative effect in reducing carbon emissions, boosting public transport and alleviating congestion on the M8, one of Scotland's busiest sections of road."   Colin Howden, director of the Transform Scotland lobby group, said: "Scottish transport spending has in recent years been massively skewed towards high-carbon road-building.   So today's focus on active travel, decarbonised public transport and new light rail in the cities is a welcome change of course."   On the proposed studies into bridges or tunnels for the Sound of Barra and Sound of Harris, Mr Howden added: "I doubt any of these suggested crossings will ever be built. They look as improbable as Boris Johnson's failed Irish Sea Bridge proposal."   Meanwhile, it has been revealed nearly £900,000 of taxpayers' money was spent on a study commissioned by Boris Johnson which found it would be too expensive to build a bridge or tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland.    The UK Westminster government Department for Transport said the research into the feasibility of a fixed link - which was later dismissed as "impossible to justify" - cost £896,681.

Ministry of Defence Joins Fight for Red Squirrels At Kirkcudbright
The Ministry of Defence has stepped in to help red squirrels survive in southern Scotland.   It hopes to encourage them to return to its Kirkcudbright Training Centre - often used as a site for infantry training with live firing.   Staff from its Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) plan to put in boxes on the land to attract pine martens.   Research has suggested that they could help red squirrels to flourish by removing greys.    The south of Scotland is seen as the front line in the battle to save the country's red squirrels.   Efforts are ongoing to reduce grey squirrel numbers as they compete with reds for food and space and can also carry squirrelpox which is deadly only to reds.  Working with the Dumfries and Galloway Pine Marten Group, den boxes will be put into the military training area.  It currently has a population of grey squirrels which have displaced the native reds.   However, there is evidence of migratory pine marten activity on the land with the DIO hoping to encourage a permanent population.   Warrant Officer Scott Maclean, who is leading the initiative, said: "Looking after our land and wildlife is extremely important to DIO.   We're hopeful this will make a real difference to the ecology of the area by encouraging the return of native red squirrels.   "We'll be monitoring the pine marten den boxes using trail cameras and if this initiative is successful, we'd like to expand it to more of Kirkcudbright Training Area."   Dr Stephanie Johnstone, who chairs the region's pine marten group, said it was delighted to be working with the MoD.   "The installation of den boxes at the Kirkcudbright range will benefit pine martens by providing them with a safe place to stay over winter and breed, replicating the scarce natural resource of large tree cavities within the landscape," she said.  "Pine martens suppress invasive non-native grey squirrels at the landscape scale.   The establishment of a pine marten population on the range will help support the existing on-site efforts to remove grey squirrels for the protection of the local native red squirrel population."  It is all part of wider plans to rejuvenate the Balmae Lake area of the training centre.  Non-native plant species have been removed and replaced with Scottish wildflowers and other work has been carried out.   The training area itself covers about 1,900 hectares (4,700) acres and is mainly used for infantry training.    Public access is permitted to the majority of the land when live firing is not taking place.

Man Admits Planting 'Bomb' in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens
A former Greek serviceman has admitted leaving a potentially explosive device in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.  Nikolaos Karvounakis, 35, claimed to be a member of the International Terrorist Mafia - a Mexican eco-terror group - after planting the homemade "bomb", which was found on 11 January 2018.   He pleaded guilty earlier to being in possession of items for a terrorist purpose at the High court in Edinburgh.   He was remanded in custody ahead of sentencing next month.   About a month after the device was found Karvounakis contacted a newspaper journalist sending a photo of it and described himself as a "lover of nihilist anti-political violence".   Advocate depute Angela Gray told the court: "The device was later established to contain the component parts of a potentially viable device.   Had it detonated, it would have the potential to cause significant injury to persons and damage to property in close proximity as a result of the metal pipe or metal nails that were within it being propelled outwards from the explosion."   A total of 58 nails, some of which had been cut in half, were found inside the item.   The prosecutor said the find prompted a major operation by the emergency services, and armed forces ordnance disposal experts were called in. A controlled detonation was carried out.   Police discovered he had bought the parts used in the construction of the device from DIY stores and over the internet. Explosives experts found he had followed an instructional video to build it.   Karvounakis maintained that while a fuse was inserted into a modified bulb to give the appearance of an improvised igniter the fuse was not actually connected to the filament.  But scientists who examined the equipment said there remained a risk it could still prove viable due to the potential introduction of a hot filament wire close to a low explosive substance.  Karvounakis was arrested on 15 June 2021 by counter terrorism firearms officers at North Bridge, in Edinburgh, in connection with a terrorism offence.    The court heard his DNA was found on adhesive tape in the device.  Karvounakis admitted possessing the device containing explosive material in circumstances giving rise to reasonable suspicion that he had it "for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism".   Karvounakis was born in Crete and completed his national service in the Greek Army before moving to Scotland in 2013. He was living in Edinburgh and working as a cleaner before he was arrested.   Defence counsel John Scullion said: "The accused's position is he intended to cause disruption but not physical harm and when the device was left in the gardens it was not set to detonate.   The accused wrote a message inside the box which was intended to be read and was intended to cause alarm when the box was opened," he said.  Mr Scullion said he wished to apologise for his actions and had prepared a letter of apology for the court.

Burns Suppers Around the World Showcased in Artwork
Photos of Burns suppers sourced from around the world have been used by artist David Mach to create a collage celebrating the global reach of Scotland’s national bard.   The Flying Haggis artwork was commissioned by the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Robert Burns Studies to mark the end of a two-year project researching the history of Burns suppers and mapping these events in the 21st century.    It features between 30 and 40 of around 350 images sourced by the university from people who submitted photos of their own Burns Night events in 2021, many of which were held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.  The artwork will be officially launched during a virtual reality event on Burns Night on Tuesday, at which people will also be able to experience the story and legacy of the Burns supper “as never seen before”, including a virtual trip to Alloway Auld Kirk as Burns imagined it in Tam o’ Shanter.   Mach, known for artworks including the Big Heids alongside the M8 motorway in North Lanarkshire, said: “You’ll see Flying Haggis is not a stiff affair. I wanted to make a Burns Night that Robert Burns himself would want to attend.   It’s a collage but acts more like a film on pause, press play and the action will carry on. Even the room joins in the extravagance of the night.  There’s an almost orgiastic celebration, Scottish to kick off but soon joining together all the liberal, freethinking, independent, romantic spirits of the world.”   The Flying Haggis will be the centrepiece of a virtual reality exhibition created as part of the Burns Beyond Reality collaboration between the university and immersive learning platform Edify.   It will go on display in the university’s new Advanced Research Centre building in Glasgow in the coming months.   Dr Pauline Mackay, a lecturer in Robert Burns studies who has been leading with Edify on the creation of Burns Beyond Reality, said: “Immersive technology enables us to access and experience Burns and his legacy in exciting and innovative ways, no matter where we are in the world.   It really is Burns for the 21st century.”   The Centre for Robert Burns Studies research has also mapped more than 2,500 contemporary Burns suppers, brought together on an interactive world map which was launched last year.   It features celebrations across 140 countries on five continents, from places including Hawaii and Argentina to Japan, and gives an inventory of their menus, settings, entertainments, and orders of ceremony.   Professor Gerard Carruthers, co-director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies and principal investigator on the Burns Supper In History And Today project, said: “Today, it is estimated that over nine-and-a-half million people around the world take part in a Burns supper every year.  The Burns supper is a huge testimony to the bard’s enduring appeal, not only within Scotland but around the world.   With the conclusion of our research, we believe we have now created a one-stop shop for everything you want to know about the Burns supper, past and present.”  People around the globe celebrate Burns Night to mark the anniversary of the poet’s birth on January 25, 1759.   Scotland’s Culture Secretary Angus Robertson said: “David Mach’s new artwork, and the global virtual events and resources created to mark Burns Night, give everyone the opportunity to celebrate Burns and his legacy in new and exciting ways.”

Beinn Eighe: Regenerating Rainforests on UK Oldest Reserve
The rainforests on the UK's oldest national nature reserve in Wester Ross are being left to regenerate naturally for the first time in its history.   New woodlands have been planted every year on the Beinn Eighe reserve near Kinlochewe since it was established in 1951.   They link small remnants of the ancient Caledonian pinewoods which once dominated Scotland's landscape.   NatureScot, which manages the reserve, now intends to leave it to grow and expand without human interference.   Experts say this sort of natural regeneration creates more successful habitats for plant and animal life.   The final 20,000 locally grown trees will be planted out in Glen Torridon towards the end of the year.   Reserve manager Doug Bartholomew said: "The planted woodlands now link together all the fragments of ancient woodland on the nature reserve, creating a much more resilient environment for wildlife and to help combat climate change.  For the next 70 years, our vision is to see the wood expand even more through natural processes, with a flourishing western pinewood supporting a range of healthy habitats and a rich variety of species."   Much of the site's ancient temperate rainforest was felled during World War Two to supply timber as part of the war effort.   Scotland's rainforest, also known as Atlantic woodland and Celtic rainforest, comprises native woodlands found in parts of the west coast.   Beinn Eighe was the first to be given national nature reserve status after a new law was enacted in 1949.   The expanded forest, mainly made up of native Scots pines, has become a corridor for wildlife like crossbills and golden eagles which allows them to move more freely across a larger area.   About 551 acres (223ha) of forest has now been established compared with 390 acres (158ha) when the reserve was designated.   Conservationist Peter Cairns told BBC Scotland: "Woodland that regenerates of its own accord is much more species rich, much more structurally diverse, which provides a greater range of niches for a greater range of species.   Planting trees, with the best will in the world, doesn't replicate the natural evolution of a woodland."   NatureScot estimates that about 800,000 trees have been planted and although most are Scots pine the woodlands also contain birch, holly, oak, rowan and aspen.   Many of the species will take hundreds of years to grow to maturity meaning it will be for future generations to experience the vision for Beinn Eighe.

Covid in Scotland: Self-isolation Rules Eased for Care Home Residents
People admitted to adult care homes will no longer have to self-isolate if they have a negative PCR test and are not showing Covid symptoms.   The Scottish government has issued new guidelines to care home operators on patients transferring from hospitals.   It says, to avoid isolation, people must not have been exposed to coronavirus in the previous 14 days.   The isolation period for residents testing positive - and close contacts - is also being cut from 14 days to 10.  Previously, residents automatically had to self-isolate for two weeks after a hospital transfer.   The Scottish government said the moves would bring restrictions closer to those for the general public.   The general isolation period in Scotland was cut from 10 days to seven on 5 January.  The change brought Scotland into line with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had said self-isolation rules were being changed in a bid to ease staff shortages in key sectors.   The new measures recognised the high levels of vaccination in care homes, according to the Scottish government.    They also "balance the risk of infection against the potential harms caused to residents by long periods self-isolating".   Announcing the moves, Social Care Minister Kevin Stewart also said it was "crucial" that care homes continued to support indoor visiting.   He added: "We recommend that there should be no set limits to the number of households visiting each resident.  Care homes will determine group sizes and numbers taking into account the size of the visiting area and other factors.   As before, there should be no restrictions placed on frequency and duration of visiting which will guided by care home arrangements and circumstances."  Following the first minister's coronavirus statement on Tuesday, Scottish Labour's Monica Lennon questioned why the isolation restrictions in care homes had not been mentioned.   Ms Lennon said: "Many (residents) fear that they are being forgotten as the rest of us move on.   Some families from Care Home Relatives Scotland describe their loved ones as having no visitors nor freedom and, worst of all, no hope."

Ironic Twist As Thurso Disability Campaigner Struggles to Access Help for Her Own Needs

A Thurso woman suffering from MS says she feels let down by NHS Highland and social services despite helping countless others with disability issues access those same services over the years.   Louise Smith was diagnosed with MS in 2008, uses a wheelchair and has reduced physical abilities on her right-hand side which means she struggles with personal care including showering and dressing.   "I had a bad fall in the bathroom recently when having a shower and am all bruised now," said Louise who is project officer with Caithness Disability Access Panel (CDAP).   "Preparing meals is also very difficult and I need help with that daily. I have a partner but he doesn't live with me and can't always make it over to see me. I have a lift cushion that inflates and brings me up to chair height but without it you can't get me off the floor.   I'm very vulnerable as I'm prone to falls. Speaking to the NHS social care person on the phone she told me to dial 999 and get admitted to hospital if I don't think I'm safe. We have Covid to deal with and resources stretched to the limit [in the country] and I don't think I should be in hospital. I just need someone to come in and check that I'm not lying on the floor and give me a meal."   As project officer with CDAP, Louise has helped improve local services for disabled people in the county and led a campaign to award certificates to community buildings and hotels that had upgraded their disabled toilets.  "I've helped a lot of disability and community groups fill in application forms to try and get money and now I'm struggling to get help myself. The NHS and social care are not working quickly enough to keep me safe."   Louise said that her nurse sent her a Personal Outcome Plan (POP) referral form to complete and return to NHS Highland. "This was only after she raised the issue of their lack of response, three months after she’d originally written to them. Why didn’t they send the form three months previously?"   Louise said she couldn't believe the amount of information required on the 23-page form. "It's a disaster of a form. It's like they're hoping you don't fill it in. It's a lot of work which will probably [be] a waste of time as they have said that the waiting list is very long."   The disability campaigner feels that it is very ironic that she cannot access the help she needs and says that her treatment by the NHS made her feel a "lower class" of person. "I feel like they don’t consider me as a life worth protecting. My need is urgent and I think they should supply care within a week. In this day and age, is it right that I’m in danger of starving?"   After sending out a plea to her local councillors, Matthew Reiss and Donnie Mackay got in touch to see how they could help out.   On Tuesday afternoon Louise said: "I just had a call from the duty social worker in Wick as Donnie Mackay had called her about me. She phoned to say she has done the Care at Home referral but warned me there is a long waiting list. She found an existing POP referral form on their system so has used that rather than us having to fill it all in again."   Thurso and Northwest Caithness Matthew Reiss said: "I've known Louise for quite a few years and am very well aware of the work she has done on disability issues. We can usually do a letter of support to help out in a case like this.   I'll find out who she's been in contact with and get in touch with these people myself. It is ironic that someone who has campaigned on disability issues is having difficulty getting help for herself and I'll do what I can to understand the problem better and see if I can get some assistance."   Louise says she would like to see the NHS recruit sufficient carers to meet the community’s needs. "I would like the process for getting care to be a lot less complicated."

Avian Flu Outbreak Surveillance Zones Lifted
Avian flu restriction zones at three locations in Dumfries and Galloway have all been lifted.  The move comes after disinfection and mandatory surveillance and investigations at the sites near Gretna, Annan and Moffat.  Scotland's chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas said the UK was dealing with its "worst outbreak ever".  Bird keepers have been reminded that an order to keep their birds indoors remains in place.  Restrictions were put in place at the locations in the south west of the country before Christmas.  The Scottish government confirmed the surveillance zones had been revoked between 14 and 18 January.


AUSTRALIAN SCOTTISH/CELTIC NEWS
SCOTTISH RADIO
Contrary to a widely held common belief that the popular Scotland Down Under radio program was dead and no longer would be heard on the air waves. The truth of the matter is that Scotland Down Under will be back on the air waves from a different radio station and a different time slot very soon.  Keep your eyes and ears open and we’ll be bringing you this important news as soon as it comes to hand.

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

THE NEWS YOU HAVE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR.
Tickets for Brigadoon 2 APRIL 2022 WILL GO ON SALE FROM
9am DECEMBER 10th

THE LINK IS: www.ticketebo.com.au/brigadoon-2022

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