Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 639

Issue # 639                                           Week ending Saturday 29th January 2022
As Rabbie Burns Said, the Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Awry by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who plan and those who don’t. They live very different lives. Planners have a good idea what will happen tomorrow and even in the next few years. Non-planners just have no idea. Stop there.

One very meticulous planner is at the very top of decision-making in this country and he is generally regarded as a menace and is not to be trusted. No, of course not him. It’s not Sue Gray either.

Most people think this person is driven by revenge for being booted out of his job by people who probably did much worse and much more often and who possibly misled us about all that. Now this same fellow can probably decide when the prime minister has to quit and, quite possibly, who is going to be the next leader as well.

No one in power wants to admit it but when the PM sacked Dominic Cummings, he messed up. He knew Cummings was a strategist to his fingertips and not someone who could forgive easily if he felt wronged. Now Dom feels very wronged and unfairly treated. He was upstairs when the alleged partying was going on. He knows exactly what went on because his office was right there - in 10 Downing Street. That was some mistake.

It was not a mistake like putting on your pants back to front. That can happen to anyone in a hurry. Which reminds me that I know someone who was recently at an Edinburgh market which sold Calvin Kline underpants. Expensive, they were. Beside them, he spotted almost-identical pairs of cheaper Calum Clines. How very Caledonian, he thought. I shall support these fine Scottish drawers makers instead.

They were rubbish. The elastic gave out within two weeks. Holes appeared where no hole should ever be. Cheap ripoffs made in the Far East and there was nothing Scottish about them, except the word Calum, strategically placed to lure gullible Scots. Don’t get caught with your pants down-priced. Calums will not give you the support you need. Take note.

Like myself, Dom makes notes on his phone all the time. I do it because I forget whether Mrs X said to get cabbages or carrots. He does it because he is a planner collecting data that could be useful later. He had the exact time he last walked out of Downing Street and of each of these alleged get-togethers. He may forget what’s on his shopping list, but I doubt it.

Dom used a new insult this week. Kunlangeta. It’s from the Yupik language of bitterly cold north-west Alaska. It means someone who has become incapable of doing the right thing so others must just chuck him off the ice. That is some plan.

Met Police chief Cressida Dick has a new plan because she has finally spotted some evidence of lockdown breaches at Downing Street. It’s actually on her desk sent to her by the Cabinet Office - recorded delivery, I hope. She has to do something now.

Is it me or does anyone else think this is just another plan to delay the Sue Gray report? OMG. Or OMC, as we text it in Gaelic. That’s O Mo Chreach, literally Oh My End, or Oh My Destruction. For emphasis, you can say Oh My Destruction Has Come. Or more usually OMFC, just like in English.

Our Scottish Government meanwhile also has a possible plan for having a series of tunnels to the Western Isles instead of some CalMac ferry routes. A 17-mile-long, dual carriageway-width subsea link running under the Minch could connect Benbecula with Skye and a subsea link to Mull and one to Harris. Some newspapers claim islanders on Mull don’t want a tunnel. Fine. So Lewis can have theirs. It’d all cost a mere £450 million.

That is actually good value for all that boring, burrowing and shafting. Transport projects don’t come cheap. Also planned is a ClydeMetro network with an upgrade of the Glasgow Subway to connect with the rail network over the next 20 years. That will cost £6 billion. Our much overdue underpasses would just be a tenth of that - or even a twelfth of that. I don’t have my phone calculator to work it out.

I said there were two types of people - planners and non-planners. I was wrong. There are actually three kinds of people in the world. Those who can count and those who can’t.

Glasgow School of Art Fire: Inquiry Unable to Find Cause
Fire investigators have failed to find a cause for the fire that destroyed Glasgow School of Art's world-renowned Mackintosh building in 2018.  The blaze broke out on 15 June - four years after an earlier fire had caused major damage to the building.  But following an investigation lasting more than three years, the final report concluded that the cause of the second blaze remained "undetermined".  It said this was due to extensive damage and the destruction of evidence.  The art school said it "shared the regret" that the exact cause of the fire had not been identified and would take time to consider the report and its recommendations.  The fire investigation, which lasted until 30 September 2021, involved the excavation and physical examination of hundreds of tonnes of fire-damaged debris.  Witness testimonies, CCTV and photographic footage were also analysed.   The fire took hold as the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building on Renfrew Street neared the end of a £48m restoration, following the earlier blaze in 2014.   The alarm was raised by a security guard at 23:19, with the first fire appliances on scene within six minutes.  A passer-by noticed a glow in the building and smoke coming from the roof at 23:21 and took a photograph. This was also captured on CCTV cameras on the Reid building opposite.  However, investigators later learned that the first possible indication of fire in the area was one hour and 34 minutes before the first 999 call.   A member of the public walking along Renfrew Street at about 21:45 smelled "burned material", but attributed it to the ongoing renovation works or a residual fire smell.  At its height, more than 120 firefighters worked to contain and extinguish the fire. There were no casualties.  The report found that it was likely the fire started on the east side, on or above level four of the Mackintosh building.  It added that an unlimited air supply fed through the duct system which served to intensify the fire, "promoting uncontrolled fire growth and rapid development".  Within 38 minutes of the arrival of firefighters, 50% of the building, which had 10 levels, was well alight.   The initial external observations of the building found that there had been a "failure of approximately 97% of the windows, severe spalling of the sandstone outer façade, warping of steel beams and severe fire and heat damage to the scaffolding structure that encased the building. The entire roof structure had perished with only stone, brick and distorted steel structural members remaining."  The report added: "Remaining exposed steelwork was warped and twisted, hardly any timber remained, and walls were stripped to brickwork as surface finishes had been consumed in the intense heat."   The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) investigation found no evidence to suggest the cause of the fire was due to a deliberate act - but the report said wilful fireraising could not be fully discounted.   Ross Haggart, SFRS deputy chief officer, said the investigation had been "a deeply complex and protracted process.  Due to the nature of the ongoing restoration and construction works combined with other factors such as the air supply into the building, the fire was unfortunately able to take hold, spread and ultimately cause catastrophic damage," he said.   "This presented a number of challenges to our investigation, namely working within a structurally dangerous site to physically examine hundreds of tonnes of debris which was up to four metres in height and heavily compacted."   He said the brigade was "acutely aware" of the cultural significance of the Mackintosh building and the pressing need for answers.   "We scrutinised every aspect of this fire to ensure our investigation was as robust and thorough as possible," he said.  "Unfortunately, almost everything within the building was severely damaged or consumed in the fire and that included any potential items of evidence that could have provided those answers."  He added: "We were unable to find sufficient evidence to support any credible origin and it has not been possible to establish a definitive cause.  However, we have made a number of recommendations, including the introduction of new mechanisms to enhance information sharing around ongoing construction projects within Scotland to ensure the safety of our firefighters and our communities."   Prof Penny Macbeth, director of the art school, and Kristen Bennie, interim chair of the board of governors, thanked the SFRS for its "meticulous approach to this incredibly complex investigation.  It has been a very difficult time for the city, and in particular our closest neighbours, for students, staff and the wider heritage sector, all of whom have been impacted in myriad ways by both Mackintosh Building fires," they said.  "While the SFRS fire investigation report is detailed and comprehensive, we share the regret that many will feel that the exact cause of the fire has not been identified.  Taking time to study and consider the report thoroughly, in particular the recommendations, we will now undertake and share a lessons learned exercise on all aspects of the restoration to inform future construction projects."  Their statement added that the report was an "important milestone", allowing the art school to go ahead with its plans to faithfully reinstate the Mackintosh building.

Message in A Bottle From Scottish Girl Found in Norway After 25 Years
A message in a bottle sent by a young girl in Aberdeenshire has been found in Norway 25 years later.   Joanna Buchan was eight when the bottle was dropped from a fishing boat off Peterhead in 1996 for a school project.  It was found 800 miles (1,287km) away at Gasvaer in northern Norway by Elena Andreassen Haga, who tracked Joanna down on social media. The schoolgirl's letter reveals a love of sweets but a dislike of the opposite sex. "By the way I hate boys," it ends.  Neatly handwritten and addressed to the "discoverer", Joanna also describes her pet dog, her school projects and her love of collecting Blu Tack.  Elena, 37, told BBC Scotland she found the green bottle in summer 2020 and could see immediately there was something inside.   "So we opened it and we had to be really careful because, as you can see by the picture of the letter, it has probably been in the water for some time, but we managed to fold it out and we're able to read that this is actually from Scotland, so that was kind of cool," she said.  "My son Eliah was six when we found the bottle, he honestly didn't quite understand the fuss at first - old-fashioned fun I guess".  The Norwegian sent a Facebook message for Joanna, but the former Peterhead schoolgirl did not spot it until Monday.   Elena said: "My father also found a message in a bottle when he was about five and he's 66 now so that's quite some time ago, but in the same area.   So this is like it's normal to have things washed up on shore but it's not very often that you find something with this kind of significance."  Joanna is now 34 and a doctor in New South Wales in Australia.  She said she found the "absolute gem of a message" from Elena, dating back to 2020, while scrolling through the message requests section of Facebook Messenger.  I vaguely remember doing a message in a bottle at Peterhead Central School that we sent off Peterhead in 1996," she added.  "I was like 'that's my handwriting'."   The letter included details about her "rather big house", and her love of teddy bears.   "When I read it I just died laughing", she said.  "There's some really lovely lines in there, like what was important to me at the time. I wish I could tell my teachers of the time, whose idea it would have been.  It's clearly done its time in the North Sea."

Eden Mill: Gin and Whisky Distiller Sold to Private Equity Firm Inverleith
Fife-based gin and whisky distiller Eden Mill has been bought by the private equity firm Inverleith LLP.  The deal for a majority stake in the company will see a new distillery built on the Eden Campus at St Andrews University.   It will include a visitor centre, shop and restaurant when it opens by 2023.  The new owners, who have not disclosed the purchase price, said the investment would allow Eden Mill to expand distribution in the UK and abroad.   Eden Mill's current distillery in St Andrews is working to full capacity.  Established in 2012 by Tony Kelly and Paul Miller, Eden Mill produces award-winning gins including Forager, Golden Lore and Rosa Rosa as well as its Original and Heritage brands.  In 2018, it launched the first of five limited edition single malt whiskies and is looking to expand in markets such as China and India.  Managing director Paul Miller said Inverleith LLP was "the right partner to drive and support the next and most significant stage of the Eden Mill journey".   Mr Miller will continue to lead the business, heading a new senior executive team. A newly-formed board of directors will also be put in place.   Inverleith LLP invests in consumer brand companies in the premium food and drink, health and wellness, and lifestyle sectors. It is a former majority stakeholder The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.   Its managing partner Paul Skipworth said Eden Mill was "a fantastic addition" to his company's portfolio of premium consumer brands.   He said: "We admire the work that Eden Mill has done to date in developing high-quality, great-tasting gins and Scotch whiskies.  "We look forward to helping the brand and its products achieve international success."

Film and TV Productions Generate £42m for Glasgow
Film and broadcasting activities generated a record £42.4m for Glasgow's economy last year, according to a report.   Big productions which were filmed in part in the city included The Flash and the fifth Indiana Jones film.   TV series such as Channel 4's Screw, and parts of BBC's Shetland and Guilt 2 were also filmed in Glasgow.  The figures do not include the ongoing production of Batgirl, which will be included in the city's 2022 total.   Batgirl is the first major film production to be entirely based in the city.  Filming is co-ordinated by the council's film commission - the Glasgow Film Office - which acts as a "one-stop shop" for productions.   The GFO leads the Glasgow Film Partnership, a body with over 60 members, which aims to make filming on location in the city as simple as possible.  Members of the partnership include Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Glasgow Science Centre, the University of Glasgow, Glasgow Airport and Network Rail.   The latest productions follow a series of major films and broadcast series shot in Glasgow, including World War Z, Under The Skin, Outlaw King, Outlander, Succession and Still Game.  Meanwhile, the city council said the development of the Kelvin Hall Film and Studio Hub - to be completed in late summer - would further drive the development of the film and broadcast industry in Glasgow.  It wants to see the city become the Scottish hub for major TV broadcasters and production companies to help meet growing demand for shows for organisations such as the BBC, ITV, STV, Sky, Channel 4 and Netflix.  In addition, the hub is expected to create and maintain new and existing local jobs in the industry.

Viking Torch Parade Marks Celtic Connections in Glasgow
A Viking torch-lit parade has been held in Glasgow to mark Celtic Connections.  The march celebrated the history of Shetland, which is featured at this year’s festival. Two specially -commissioned shows are being staged to highlight the islands' "unique cultural history and identity".   The hybrid music festival began this week and will run until 6 February. Performances have been online with some screened to smaller audiences at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall.   A small number of larger-scale shows have been rescheduled until later in the year after shows had to be cancelled due to Covid restrictions on crowds.   In-person shows resume from Monday with the lifting of Covid restrictions on indoor venues.  Last year's Celtic Connections was also forced to go online due to the pandemic.

Calmac Restores Ferry Timetable As Covid Absences Fall
West coast ferry operator CalMac says it will be able to resume near-normal services on Wednesday following a decline in staff absences due to Covid.  It moved to an essential services-only timetable on 3 January after high levels of absence due to workers testing positive or being close contacts.  At the height of CalMac's Covid problems, more than 20% of staff were having to self-isolate.   The temporary timetable was due to continue until 6 February.  CalMac's Mallaig-Lochboisdale service will remain cancelled. This is due to a delay in maintenance work to the ferry MV Caledonian Isles.  Managing director Robbie Drummond said: “I am pleased to say that because of a significant drop in the number of staff unable to work due to Covid we can now offer a full winter service on the majority of routes."

Rope Work At Dounreay Radioactive Waste Vaults
Rope access specialists have carried out safety work at two vaults where tonnes of radioactive waste will be stored for hundreds of years.  The facilities at Dounreay were built below ground to hold what is classed as low level waste.   The rubbish includes soil and rubble from the demolition of buildings at Dounreay, and also polythene sheets, plastic gloves and paper from the site.   The specialists worked on the 20m (66ft) rock faces around the vaults.  The Dounreay nuclear power complex, near Thurso in Caithness, is being decommissioned.   The waste vaults were constructed next to the site.  Contractor CAN Geotechnical and geotechnical designer Golder Associates (UK) Ltd were brought in to repair netting, which catches any loose rocks, and install addition bolts to help keep the rock faces stable.   The specialists also did rescue training, practising the recovery of an injured worker from the bottom of a rock face.  The rock walls are outside the reinforced concrete walls of the waste stores.  Dounreay's operators have planning permission for six low level radioactive waste vaults with a total capacity of 175,000 cubic metres.  Two were completed between 2011 and 2014. Each can hold the equivalent of between 370 and 450 double decker buses.   The next phase of construction could start between this year and 2026.   The vaults have been designed to store waste, which is held in containers filled with cement-based grout, for hundreds of years.  Dounreay said after 300 years, about 90% of the total radioactivity initially disposed of in the stores will have decayed.  It said the average radioactivity of the remaining material would be comparable to that currently found naturally in soils around Dounreay.  The facilities are expected to take thousands of years to "slowly degrade".

New Image of Iron Age Broch Reconstruction Plan
A project to reconstruct an Iron Age broch has released a new digital image of what the completed building is expected to look like.  Brochs - tall, double-walled drystone towers - have only been found in Scotland.   Caithness Broch Project's tower would be the first to be constructed in 2,000 years.   The charity hopes to acquire land within the next 12 months and begin building work next year.   Brochs were built to heights of more than 12m (40ft).   It is thought they were used as dwellings, perhaps for local chieftains. Caithness is home to about 200 brochs.  In 2020, Caithness Broch Project completed conservation work on a broch that was damaged by Victorian archaeologists.  The ruins of Ousdale Burn Broch, north of Helmsdale in Caithness, had fallen into further disrepair over the past 130 years.

Lottery Funding for Highland Community Waste Movement Featuring Thurso and Lairg Groups
Community groups in Caithness and Sutherland have joined forces with others from across the Highlands in a new climate movement aimed at reducing consumption and waste.  The Highland Community Waste Partnership, led by Keep Scotland Beautiful, is being made possible by a £1,498,568 award announced today by the National Lottery Community Fund.  Thurso Community Development Trust (TCDT) and Lairg and District Learning Centre will play their part in the region-wide initiative that will seek to tackle a throwaway culture by raising awareness of unsustainable consumption and its contribution to climate change.  The partnership will focus on issues such as cutting down on food waste and single-use items while supporting communities to reduce their carbon footprint by opting for pre-loved, repaired and shared goods rather than new purchases.  The project will support Scotland’s net-zero ambitions.  Six other Highland groups are involved in the partnership – Lochaber Environment Group, Broadford and Strath Community Company (Isle of Skye), Ullapool Community Trust, Transition Black Isle, Highland Good Food Partnership and Velocity (Inverness).  Barry Fisher, chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “We’re thrilled that the Highland community waste collaborative project is to receive National Lottery funding over three years from the Climate Action Fund.  This exciting new project will enable us to work in partnership with eight community groups across the Highlands to reduce consumption and waste, helping them to connect with each other and scale up activities that we know work while also piloting new ones.  Kicking off in April, the project will bring focus to how unsustainable consumption contributes to climate change.  We are very much looking forward to working in collaboration with others to support a range of activities from climate cafés, film nights, and waste reduction workshops to trialling innovative ways to increase the availability and uptake of recycling and reuse while promoting sustainable tourism and growing and sharing networks.”  The National Lottery Community Fund’s Scotland chairperson, Kate Still, said: “Huge congratulations to Keep Scotland Beautiful and all of its partner organisations who will each bring to bear their own skills and experience to deliver this new Highland-wide climate action project.  With a particular focus on tackling waste, it will help communities to take collective action and make the connections between climate change and unsustainable consumption. This will not only help us get to net-zero but will also help people and communities across the Highlands to thrive.”

Extra Cash for Scottish Councils in Bid to Avoid Tax Hikes
The Scottish government is to give local government an extra £120m next year in a bid to ward off big increases in council tax bills.   Council bosses had warned rises were inevitable in light of the financial settlement on offer from Holyrood.   Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said she now had some "additional flexibility" due to funding from the UK Westminster government.   She told MSPs that the extra cash was equivalent to a 4% rise in local taxes, meaning there was no need for hikes.   Ms Forbes was speaking as the Scottish government's budget for the coming year faced its first vote at Holyrood, although it is sure to pass with SNP and Green votes.  Councils also need to set their tax and spending plans in the coming weeks, and leaders had hit out at the "totally unacceptable" settlement on offer from the Scottish government.  There has been dispute over the exact figures involved, with the government pointing to an increase in the core settlement in cash terms while councils said that this does not account for inflation or ring-fenced funds.   Alison Evison, who heads council umbrella body Cosla, previously warned there would be tax increases and that it was "probably inevitable" that some local services would face cuts too.   Addressing MSPs, Ms Forbes said the 2022-23 budget was fully allocated, but said "new information" from the UK Westminster government meant there was extra cash in the current year's books.  She said she would be able to carry forward "sufficient funding from this year to next year to allocate a further £120m of resource to local government".   Councils have been given complete control over local tax rates for the first time since the SNP came to power in 2007, but Ms Forbes said she hoped the extra funding would allow them to avoid big increases.   She said: "Councils asked for an additional £100m to deal with additional pressures. We have heard them and listened and we are going to go further.  That will allow them to deal with the most pressing issues they face, and at a time when people are understandably worried about the cost of living I would point out that this increase in funding would be equivalent to a 4% increase in council tax next year.  While councils have full flexibility in setting local council tax rates, I don't believe there is a requirement for any inflation-busting increases next year."
Analysis by Glenn Campbell, BBC Scotland political editor
An extra £120m is not to be sniffed at, but it will not solve all local government's funding problems.   Councillors have more cash to spend than ever, but they say inflation and the widespread use of ring-fenced funding for national schemes leaves them short.  Because today's additional money is a one-off payment it cannot be relied on to meet ongoing commitments like pay rises.   Kate Forbes said it was equivalent to a 4% rise in council tax and that inflation-busting increases should not be necessary.   But that does not mean that council tax won't go up at all. That will be for individual local authorities to decide.   In previous years, SNP ministers have used capping or a council tax freeze to protect households from big rises.  Ironically, they have restored the freedom of councillors to decide at a time when rising energy prices are driving up the cost of living.   Councillors know tax increases will not be popular - an important consideration ahead of local elections in May - but for some the alternative is service cuts that could be just as controversial.  The Scottish Conservatives backed the extra funding, with finance spokeswoman Liz Smith "warmly welcoming the actions of the UK Westminster government in assisting with this budget".   However she said her party would be voting against the package as a whole, as the government had "created many more problems within this budget than it has actually solved".  Labour's Daniel Johnson said it was welcome that Ms Forbes had "found a few pennies down the back of her armchair", but said the allocation would still leave councils short.  "This is no way to conduct a budget in a serious and rational way," he added.   And Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie said that local councils would not be "grateful that the cabinet secretary has just taken her foot off their neck a little bit", saying there were still "massive cuts" coming in local government.   While the three opposition parties voted against the budget plans, they passed their first parliamentary hurdle by a vote of 69 to 54.

Council Lose £6.5m Claim Against Bus Firm Over Glasgow Bin Lorry Crash
Glasgow City Council's legal bid to recover £6.5m from First Bus, the former employer of bin lorry driver Harry Clarke, has been thrown out.  Six pedestrians died after Mr Clarke collapsed at the wheel of the lorry in the city centre in December 2014.  Lawyers for the council claimed the bus company acted negligently by failing to provide an accurate reference.  However, a judge threw the action out as evidence showed the council failed to chase up the firm's HR department.  The court heard claims that First Glasgow failed to disclose that Mr Clarke had lost consciousness at the wheel of a bus in 2010.  Mr Clarke went on to drive the bin lorry which he lost control of moments before it struck and killed six people and injured 15 others.   The council's lawyers also claimed the alleged failure to disclose the information about Mr Clarke passing out meant the firm breached a duty of care to the crash victims.  The £6.5m sum sought would have compensated the council for the money it paid to relatives of those who lost their lives.  However, in a judgement issued at the court on Thursday, Lord Ericht said the evidence showed that a former manager of Mr Clarke's at First Glasgow called Frank McCann told him that an HR employee called Darryl Turner was the person responsible for writing references.  Mr Clarke told his prospective employers about the need to contact Mr Turner, but nobody from the local authority followed up on the information.   Lord Ericht concluded that the action must fail as the council had not proven the bus company had acted negligently.  He wrote: "There was no evidence from… emails or any other source that anyone from the pursuer had acted on the information received from Mr Clarke that a reference would require to be requested from Mr Turner rather than Mr McCann, and emailed or otherwise contacted Mr Turner requesting a reference.  There was no evidence of a reference having been received from Mr Turner.  I find that no reference was received from Mr Turner."  Crown lawyers previously decided not to prosecute Mr Clarke on the basis that there was "insufficient evidence in law" to bring proceedings.   The families of those who lost their lives tried to raise a private prosecution against him, however senior judges did not allow the prosecution to proceed.

Covid in Scotland: Rules on Distancing and Face Masks Relaxed Further
Rules on physical distancing and the wearing of face masks in certain circumstances are being relaxed.  It follows First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's announcement on Tuesday that an "improving situation" allowed the easing of more Covid restrictions.  Face masks will no longer be required for adults taking part in organised activities with children under five.   And face covering exemptions requiring two-metre physical distancing will see a reduction to one metre from today, Friday.   The exemptions apply in certain indoor settings, for example receptionists and people leading religious services.  The two-metre distancing requirement was introduced in December as a response to the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.  Confirmed Covid cases in Scotland have reduced from an average of about 13,500 a day on 12 January to about 7,500 on Thursday.  The number of people in hospital with Covid has also been declining, going down from a high of 1,571 people on 19 January to 1,319.  On Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said the "significantly improved situation" had given the Scottish government "confidence" to lift most of the remaining measures that were introduced before Christmas in a bid to slow the spread of Omicron.   New rules which forced the closure of nightclubs in Scotland and limited crowds at large indoor events have already been lifted.   From next week, the working from home requirement will also be removed.   Employers will instead be encouraged to adopt a "hybrid" model, with workers spending time in the office and at home.

Missing Walker Sheltered Under Boulder in 100mph Winds
A missing walker was forced to shelter under a huge boulder in 100mph winds while on a walk to Britain's second highest mountain.  The 32-year-old woman from Edinburgh set out from the Cairngorm ski centre, near Aviemore, on Wednesday to make the 11-mile (17km) trek to Ben Macdui.   In freezing temperatures and 100mph winds, she sought the safety of the Shelter Stone near Loch Avon.   Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team found her safe and well on Thursday morning.  Members of Aberdeen and Braemar rescue teams and Inverness Coastguard helicopter were also involved in the search.   The walker was reported missing after failing to contact family on Wednesday afternoon.  The Shelter Stone, at the west end of Loch Avon, is well-known to hillwalkers as a rough shelter called a howff and it is possible to crawl under for shelter.  The woman found a survival blanket and other bedding left for an emergency.   Cairngorm MRT said there had been a wind chill of -15C overnight.

Plastic PPE to Be Recycled in Waste-reduction Project
Hundreds of tonnes of plastic personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves could be recycled as part of a new waste-reduction project.   Since the start of the pandemic, about 8.4 million tonnes of plastic PPE waste has been generated from 193 countries.  The majority ends up in landfill or, in some areas, dumped at sea.  Now a research partnership between Heriot-Watt University and PPE maker Globus Group hopes to give it "a second life" as new PPE products or fuels.  At the moment, much of the plastic polypropylene PPE waste cannot be recycled mechanically.  It is hoped the new project will develop a process for cost and energy-efficient recycling and repurposing that could be adopted globally.  Using thermal heating technology, a machine heats and compacts the plastic polypropylene into large, reusable blocks.  They are then collected and processed into pyrolysis oil.  This can be used to provide raw materials to create new PPE products - reducing waste by around 85%.   Dr Aimaro Sanna, assistant professor in chemical and process engineering at Heriot-Watt University, said the project was "a significant step towards addressing the increased waste generated during the pandemic".   He added: "Initially, the research will help to recycle over 100 tonnes of product generated by the manufacturing process every year - the equivalent to 10kg of waste every hour.   However, our hope is that this new process will be adopted more widely.  Many countries have been unable to process their plastic waste PPE properly.   Our ground-breaking research aims to address these challenges providing an exemplar technique for application globally."  Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, Globus Group said it had been producing one billion masks for healthcare trusts across the UK.  But the manufacturing process currently results in 7g of waste material per mask.  Pete Lee, head of quality at the company, said the thermal heating machine at its factory in Golborne, near Manchester, "will be a real game changer in the way we tackle our PPE waste".   He added: "This machine is a fundamental part of our process to re-purpose and utilise waste material to achieve a circular economy.   At Globus Group, we acknowledge our responsibility to the NHS, supporting it in delivering a net zero sustainable future, and the long-term welfare of future generations."  He added that once the research was completed there would be an expansion in its operations in southern Scotland where it has sites in Dumfries and Annan.  It would see the construction of a new facility to turn items like ventilators and masks into a secondary raw material for reuse.  We will work with Heriot-Watt to design the process - what kind of process needs to work and what the plant needs to look like - and then we will build it in Dumfries," he said.

Scotland's First 'Enclosed' Salmon Farm to Open on Loch Long
An innovation in salmon farming - to tackle pollution and the spread of parasitic lice- will mark a first for Scotland at a new fish farm in Argyll.   Giant containers which will separate wild and farmed fish could revolutionise the high-demand industry.   A new fish farm on Loch Long will debut the pollution-limiting containers next year if planning is approved.   Environment agency Sepa has granted a licence for the semi-enclosed vessels in a move welcomed by conservationists.  The aquaculture sector has faced prolonged criticism for its impact on the marine environment.   An inquiry in 2018 by Holyrood's rural economy committee said light-touch regulation had failed and that the industry had to change.   It followed concerns about the high numbers of fish deaths caused by sea lice jumping onto farmed salmon from wild fish brushing past the pens.  Pollution can also be caused by adding medicines to the water for treatment.  The environmental regulator Sepa has been working with fish farms to develop ways like this of limiting their impact on the sea.   Stewart Hawthorn, director of Loch Long Salmon, said: "This exemplar project provides an opportunity to show closer to home what is possible and to secure the future of the salmon farming industry in Scotland.   It will reduce environmental impacts while continuing to support vital jobs and economies in rural Scotland."  Semi-enclosed containers have been used in Norway since 2014 and have also been rolled out in the Faroe Islands and Canada.  While they are a more expensive way of managing the stock, Loch Long Salmon says savings are made through reduced fish mortality and in eradicating the need for medicines that treat the lice.   They also cut the amount of waste falling to the seabed, with about 85% being collected at the bottom of the enclosure and pumped ashore for treatment.   Jo Green, acting chief executive at Sepa, said: "We want Scotland to be a world-leading innovator of ways to minimise the environmental footprint of food production and supply, and for aquaculture operators to have a strong and positive relationship with neighbouring users of the environment and the communities in which they operate."   Scotland has more than 200 active fish farms and the industry expects consumer demand for salmon to continue growing.  Producers' organisation Salmon Scotland estimates that it contributes more than £640m to the economy and sells over £1bn of fish.  Dawn Purchase, aquaculture programme manager for the Marine Conservation Society, told BBC Scotland: "The use of semi-enclosed systems to farm salmon is a great example of the innovation needed to address environmental impacts and challenges of production, such as seabed pollution and sea lice management.  We are keen to see this type of farm becoming widely adopted to help deal with these persistent problems."   The site near Arrochar on Loch Long will contain five enclosures which look from the surface like traditional pens.  It still needs to be approved by planning authorities but Loch Long Salmon hopes to begin construction later this year.


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

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